Exhibition explores social media trends

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A recently opened exhibtion in Bulawayo considers the impact of how social media is assisting users of this technology who are employing it to redefine themselves.

The “Profile pic – Alter ego”, exhibition presented by the House of Menka, an arts trust, is curated by talented young artist, Tafadzwa Gwetai, who was part of the Zimbabwe contingent to the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.

The exhibition, which is running at the National Gallery in Bulawayo until February 2017, was officially opened by Rashid Jogee.

Rashid Jogee is one of the local living arts legends who resides in Bulawayo. He has always been a trend setter in the arts from pre-independence up to the present. He is looked at as a big brother and a leader in the expressionist and abstract forms of art in Zimbabwe.

Tafadzwa Gwetai says he came up with concept of the “Profile pic – Alter ego” after observing and being part of a sub-culture of technological development.

“My fascination with the idea of the “Profile pic” increased with the realisation that there is a new contemporary platform to express and communicate.

Platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and whole list of online communication applications have a designated area that is provided for people to represent themselves. The idea is to provide an image or symbol that represents the owner of the account,” he explains.

Gwetai’s observations showed that people are becoming more creative and artistic in the way that they are re-inventing themselves or expressing their state of mind.

“As an artist I found these qualities to be very similar to that of painters, sculptors, poets and musicians. We create an art work with the agenda of communicating something or with the aim of arousing emotions or thoughts,” he says.

“The average person has become very strategic – like an artist does – and can upload a profile pic that depicts their mood or an image that makes the viewer stop and reflect. In certain social media there is a comment space reserved for the viewers’ thoughts and even like and share icons for a response.”

Artists create so as to prompt conversations on certain topics and this was the quality that initiated the steps that resulted in Gwetai curating the exhibition “Profile pic – Alter ego”.

He identified a few artists from Bulawayo and Harare to participate and interpret further their perspectives from the theme “Profile Pic – Alter ego”.

Participating artists  included Auntony Zinyange, Anusa Solanje, Sky Solanje, Tinashe Vangani, Nomvuyiso Mabi, Wisdom Vangani, Talent Kapadza, Sibanengi Dube, Knox Chimbetete and Aubrey Bango – a whole range of incredible creatives who are actresses, photo journalists, hair stylists, painters and sculptors.

The “Alter ego” being the new profile or the alternative self that is represented on the profile pic platform and becomes the new persona that one represents after editing and selection.

This has resulted in the emergence of a whole new crop of artists / photographers, who are the average everyday-person with a cellphone or laptop. They  recreate themselves in fascinatingly unique ways.

These profile pictures have therefore become art forms in their own right as they are used to trigger emotions and thoughts in the viewer. This engages the visual aspect of the process, which involves the actual observation of an art form or performance for people to visualise.

These profile pictures, therefore, are visual aids used to communicate non-verbally things such as state of mind, location of where one is and even the profession that someone is in.

Gwetai says as they worked with the artists ahead of this exhibition, their translations of the theme “Profile pic – Alter ego” were fascinating.

“The artists revealed different layers to the meaning of what a profile picture can unveil. The element of identity is raised as a profile picture is an image of how one perceives themselves and prefers to be seen – the emergence of new as well false identities.

“In this new technological era where communication is virtual, a profile picture is closest means of sharing what you either look like or what ever services you provide.”

The House of Menka is an arts trust based in Bulawayo. It is designed to uplift and promote the understanding, education and appreciation of the local arts.

Gwetai says one of the main objectives of House of Menka is to facilitate exhibitions for young budding artistic talent, with the bigger picture being to foster an understanding and appreciation of Zimbabwean art and generate a sense of pride among local contemporary artists.

The House of Menka places critical emphasis on the promotion and presentation of local artists’ works.—Panorama Magazine.

Article Source: The Chronicle