Richard Mudariki

Resident Artist: Zimbabwe

Richard Mudariki is an award-winning Zimbabwean artist who has exhibited widely in Harare, Cape Town and Johannesburg. He has been living in South Africa for the past year, and My Reality, his first solo exhibition, presents a body of work that reflects the ongoing crisis that obtains in the country of his birth. However, despite the title, his paintings make no pretense to portray real events. They candidly admit that they are fabrications in which old master compositions, poses and plastic sequences of interlinked figures, are severed from their original historical context, and projected into a fresh frame of reference where their meaning is transformed, so that they comment on the iniquities of the Mugabe dictatorship, and draw attention to other injustices of far wider import.

Mudariki’s work can be profitably compared to that of Johannes Phokela, an older South African artist who has made his mark both nationally and internationally. Phokela may well have come to Mudariki’s attention and given focus to his oeuvre, as both artists rely on appropriation. The South African pillages the canon of the great Dutch and Flemish old masters of yore, such as Rubens, Brueghel and Jordaens. However, instead of using Western painting to cast light on contemporary Africa and its problems as Mudariki does, Phokela changes the race of the original 17th century Netherlandish figures from white to black in order to challenge the European myth of white supremacy, and condemn the racism and colonialism to which it gave rise.