Biennale of Sydney

Mostaff Muchawaya

Mostaff Muchawaya, Madeline, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 156.5 x 142.5 cm. Courtesy SMAC Gallery, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Stellenbosh. Copyright © Mostaff Muchawaya

Mostaff Muchawaya

Born 1981 in Nyazuru, Manicaland, Zimbabwe
Lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe

Mostaff Muchawaya’s signature style involves the application and erasure of multiple layers of vividly-coloured paint. Deeply rooted in his acknowledgement of community and family, the Zimbabwean artist’s practice embraces expressions of Ubuntu – an ideology that encompasses compassion and the practice of kinship toward humanity, regardless of perceived differences. Ubuntu originates from Southern Africa and is considered an integral part of society, both pre- and post-colonisation.

Mostaff Muchawaya’s practice most often centres on portraits, each a combination of memories, a dream-like flash of faces combined to form an impression of a half-remembered experience. In his work, Muchawaya references a deep connection to his experiences, which are inseparable from ‘his people’ and surroundings. The artist grew up in the province of Manicaland located in the mountainous, eastern area of Zimbabwe. He continuously refers to his rural upbringing in his paintings – his family part of the work force on a white-owned farm. Muchawaya’s interest in the arts started at a young age, from building his own clay toys to making sketches of the farmers’ dogs. He progressed through school while continuing to live on the farm, where he later married his childhood sweetheart. 

Muchawaya has an unbreakable bond with his community and while the paintings are new in their material form, to him they are old, remembered renderings.