Saki Mafundikwa

Saki Mafundikwa

At The Gallery
The National Gallery of Zimbabwe will be hosting its second edition of the Design Show Exhibition that showcases local contemporary designs, from April 30 to June 15, 2015 under the theme “Bikiro”.

The idea of the exhibition is to move the concept of design beyond mere craft items and begin to interrogate the design that already exists with a view to introduce greater dynamism and competition in the sector. The show is organised as an attempt to understand where Zimbabwe currently stands in terms of local design. This show will be co-curated by Doreen Sibanda, the NGZ executive director, and Saki Mafundikwa, the director of Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Art.

“Zvirinani kushaya sadza pane kushaya mugoti (It is better to do without sadza than to do without a cooking stick),” is a phrase which sums up the importance of an object of utility before the end product and the kitchen attests wholesomely to the above mentioned statement.

The kitchen presents the most crucial part of the home in African society and the elements that are fixtures within it serves as a composite for aesthetics and utility.

The kitchen is the meeting place for the family and the philosophy of ubuntu or unhu finds itself enshrined within the heart of any homestead as it presents the link with earlier generations and has throughout time been the mother’s source of power.

Bikiro is the finest example of the traditional Zimbabwe house. It is the most elaborate in design and sturdiest in construction. Circular in shape, it has no windows in the western sense, although ventilation is provided for by upward drafts which escape through the thatching or between the gap formed by the wall and the roofing beams.

In the West, a modern residential kitchen is typically equipped with a stove, a sink with hot and cold running water, a refrigerator and kitchen cabinets arranged according to a modular design. Bikiro can be used for alternative accommodation or to provide shelter for unexpected guests. In winter, the fireplace affords very welcome warmth.

Bikiro is the heart of the home in all human society. Food is prepared and often consumed in the kitchen hut which is also the most important family gathering place. On entering a typical kitchen hut one comes across the clay pot shelf (chikuva) which is located opposite the doorway. The hearth (choto) is situated centrally and arranged with three stones on which the cooking pots stand. In recent times, a special metal frame supports pots on the boil.

Raised clay benches are located around the edge of the hut providing seating. Often a small drying rack (mutariko) is suspended over the fireplace in order to dry meat or vegetables. A whole range of household tools and implements are stored in the thatch and rafters of the kitchen hut. The smouldering wood smoke is said to contain preservative properties which protect the laths and the wooden roofing from decay and insect infestations. Within easy distance of the kitchen hut will be found a small wooden rack (dara) where pots and pans are left to dry in the sun, and a woodpile (bakwa) providing fuel.

Chikuva (clay pot shelf), mutariko (drying rack for meat), dara (wooden rack where pots and pans are left to dry in the sun) nechoto (fireplace) serve as universal features in any traditional rural kitchen around the country but what has the creative class of the nation done to reinterpret the space and structure of the kitchen down to the utensils such as mugwaku (wooden spoon used to serve sadza), musika (whisk) or ndiro (plate)? This year, “Bikiro” reclaims its place as it is explored from all design perspectives.

The central showcase will be set around the installation of a traditional rural kitchen with displays of selected related design pieces by invited designers. An open call also exists for additional submissions of design pieces for consideration. Interested designers should contact the National Gallery of Zimbabwe curator for details and considerations.

This is the second edition of Design Zimbabwe Exhibition after last year’s in which 57 Zimbabwean designers dedicated their work to the celebration of Zimbabwean design. This exhibition created a platform on which designers showcased their creative abilities in a central curated exhibition as well as an expo. It was an opportunity for us to ascertain what the nation had to offer in design.

Zimbabwe is a nation that is constantly under the strain of economic pressure. Such an environment encourages the development and design of appropriate technologies and facilities. With institutions of higher and tertiary education coming on board, design in Zimbabwe is likely to develop into an innovative and viable sector over time.