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Kariba Dam exhibition at National Gallery

Curated by Raphael Chikukwa of NGZ, the exhibition has been running since September and will close this month. The exhibition displays art works done during the construction of the Kariba dam by top artists, Giovanni Novarasio, Waalko Dingermens, Cyril J Hatty and Taylor Nkomo. Novarasio and Dingermens documented the construction of the dam and the electricity pylons from the 50s to the 60s.

This is the first time that these works by Novarasio, Dingermens and Hatty have been exhibited publicly. The drawings tell the powerful story of the dam’s construction and showcase extraordinary technique with the fantastic use of materials. One can see that the artists were very specific and well-trained to produce such work which is still in mint condition.

Taylor Nkomo’s sculpture, entitled Tonga man crossing Zambezi River, examines the myth that the Tonga people would transform into fish when crossing the great Zambezi.

To place the exhibition in its proper context and to ignite deeper reflection and debate, a display of Tonga artefacts was included in the exhibition. These include the Makishi dance costume, the Ngoma Butimbe (Tonga drums), stool and a fish trap.


These artefacts represent the Tonga people, their art and culture. They were evicted to make way for the dam and are now living on both sides of the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Their way of life was affected by the dam construction yet they have no electricity more than 50 years after the dam’s completion and live in an area that is difficult to access.

The exhibition was brought to public attention at a function held recently at the gallery in partnership with the Italian Embassy. Distinguished guests included Stefano Moscatelli — the Italian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Reverend Paul Damasane — a principal director in the Ministry of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture, and Muchadeyi Masunda — the Mayor of Harare.

The exhibition also shows a deeper narrative about the economic and cultural relations between Zimbabwe and Italy. Kariba dam was constructed by an Italian company using former Italian prisoners of war who had chosen to settle in  Rhodesia after serving their time as prisoners of the British Empire.

Together with locals, a 10 000-men strong workforce worked hand-in-hand for six years in the face of great hardship. Kariba dam construction was one of the major projects in the 50s and today its story remains vivid in the minds of those who worked on it and those that were affected by the dam.
The dam continues to be the key to further development of Zimbabwe and Zambia.

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