The Stars Are Bright: new exhibition of young Zimbabwean painters of the 1940s opens in shoreditch
Rare collection goes on show for the first time in almost 70 years for a limited duration;
Rare Collection goes on show for first time in almost 70 years for a limited duration; free admission
This month, a fascinating collection of rediscovered early works by young Zimbabwean painters will be seen by the public for the first time in almost seventy years. The Stars are Bright: Zimbabwe through the eyes of its young painters from Cyrene (1940-1947), a free exhibition, opens at The Theatre Courtyard Green Rooms in Shoreditch on 15 July, one of many celebrations of London’s arts world reopening this summer.
The Stars are Bright presents a collection of extraordinary paintings and drawings created by more than forty young Zimbabwean artists over a seven-year period and captures their unique perspectives on the changing world around them. It includes works by Samuel Songo, Kingsley Sambo, Timothy Dhlodhlo and others who went on to become the precursors to Zimbabwean Modern Art.
Having been preserved in the basement of the former St Michael and All Angels’ Church, a six-minute walk from where they will now be displayed, the works have not been publicly exhibited together since the 1950s.
The Stars are Bright comes at a critical time to share the story of African artists and their work. It sheds much-deserved light on these young artists and this vital chapter of Zimbabwe’s art history. After the exhibition, the artworks will tour Zimbabwe to be shown there for the first time since the 1940s.
Selected from a more substantial collection, the 25 large paintings and more than 50 smaller works were created while the artists were students aged 10 to 20 at Cyrene, a boys’ mission school founded in 1940 near Bulawayo in colonial Zimbabwe (then known as Southern Rhodesia) by Edward “Ned” Paterson, a Scottish clergyman. Paterson, who was passionate about the visual arts, had the pupils take part in weekly art classes, making it one of the first African schools to incorporate art into the curriculum.
Inspired by the varied surrounding landscape, a country in the midst of change, and a rich practice of religion and folklore, the young men produced a unique and vast body of artwork out of their life and culture. This exhibition highlights the richness and variety of techniques, styles and themes, whilst offering an insight into key moments of Zimbabwe’s life and culture during this colonial phase.
Just ten days after the lock-down on galleries has been lifted, The Stars are Bright joins the celebration of life returning to London. Various measures have been implemented to safeguard the health and safety of visitors, including the requirement to pre-book a time slot, a one-way route through the exhibition and reminders at the venue about social distancing. Children are welcome and will find engaging activities throughout the exhibition.
Barnabus Chiponza, Tree Flowers (1945). Photo: Debbie Sears