Ronald Muchatuta's Cecil John Rhodes piecs is revealing, and forms part punk-protest and part gut-reaction. But it is also more. It is a visual and honest represention of a struggle for identity – and in Muchatuta's case even more so as his home language for most of his formative years was the language of Rhodes, suppressing his Shona identity.
Muchatuta's technique and talent is such that Rhodes is entirely recognisable despite the fact that onl the top half of his head is visible.
RONALD MUCHATUTA / Rhodes White Black
"I remember growing up in Bulawayo and Zvishavane. My dad used to by The Newspaper called – the city chronicles. There were always cartoons at the back, I would cut them out and stick them to the wall, till my bedroom wall became a mess."
Rhodes White Black, 2016
Charcoal (some pencil) on archival paper (framed and signed)
27.5” x 39” (70cm x 99cm)
This item was framed in South Africa by locally trained framers in Swellendam.
Signed by the artist.
Ronald Muchatuta uses his experiences as an immigrant from Zimbabwe to create visually stunning statements on xenophobia, identity and double standards applied to otherness. Ron has been featured on BBC, and he is collected internationally.
In 2007, he arrived in Cape Town to further his studies and gain more expertise as a painter. At the time, he had already won a number of art competitions back home and he was determined to exhibit with globally recognised artists in South Africa – a dream that has since became a reality. He has exhibited extensively in Cape Town and at galleries in Johannesburg and in the process his hard work has gained him a wealth of knowledge and experience in his craft. His recent highlights include exhibiting at the African Art Fair 2015 in Paris and the UN Milano Expo in Italy.
b.1984, KwaChirumanzu, Mvuma, Zimbabwe (ZW)
Lives in Cape Town, South Africa (SA)
Course in Fine Art – Gallery Delta (ZW) 2001/2002
Diploma in Italian/Architectural Mosaic, Spier Art Academy 2010/2012
Best Drawing '03, Greek Cultural Week 2003, (ZW)
Truworths Internship Award, 2008
The Rat Race Mosaic, Spier Art Academy
International Sponsorship Award '12, Business Day
'Coming to the City' Nandos Project, London
British Mosaic of the Year '12 – British Assoc of Modern Mosaic
International Sponsorship Award '12 – Business Day
2002 – Gallery Delta Young Artist Exhibition (ZW)
2003 – Gallery Delta Young Artist Exhibition (ZW)
2004 – Gallery Delta Young Artist Exhibition (ZW)
2005 – Gallery Delta Young Artist Exhibition (ZW)
2008 – Gallery Delta, Land Exhibition (ZW)
2008 – A.V.A. Gallery, Best of Art reach 2008 (SA)
2008 – Good Hope Castle ‘Generation Y’ Exhibit (SA)
2008 – Greatmore Thupelo workshop (SA)
2009 – Tagores, Land and People (SA)
2009 – AVA Gallery, Best of Artreach (SA)
2010 – Resident Group Exhibition, Artscape, CT
2011 – ‘The New York Optimist’ Online Feature
2013 – 5 Artists Exhibition, The Framery, CT (SA)
2013 – Salon91, Collections and Archives, CT
2013 – Resident Artist, Greatmore, CT
2013 – Art Week, Greatmore, CT
2013 – Till it breaks, Greatmore, CT
2013 – Big Names Exhibition, Greatmore, CT
2013 – Till it breaks II, Greatmore, CT
2013 – Thupelo Workshop, Greatmore, CT
2014 – Ndangariro neHope Solo, Greatmore, Ct
2014 – Way Magazine Feature, JHB
2014 – Group Exhibition II, Ebony, CT
2014 – World Refugee Exhibit, Spin Street, CT
2014 – Building Blocks Art Afrique, Sandton, JHB
2014 – World Art Gallery, CT
2014 – Golden Haze, Salon9, CT
2014 – Commissioned Mosaic, Topat family
2015 – Group Exhibition, Gallery Noko, PE (SA)
2015 – United Nations Milano Expo
2015 – Group Exhibition, Smith Gallery, CT (SA)
2015 – Beyond, Liebrecht Gallery, CT (SA)
2015 – African Art Fair 2015, Paris, France
2015 – Chicago Expo Feature, Artslant, USA
2015 – Esthetic Vogue, Eclectica, CT (SA)
2016 – Breaking the Curse, Stellenbosch Univ (SA)
2016 – Circus & the Zoo, Michaelis, UCT
2016 – Charted, Eclectica Contemporary, CT (SA)
2017 – boyoyoboy! art collective, WI, USA
Protesters in South Africa are calling for a statue of Cecil Rhodes, one of the most committed imperialists of the 19th Century, to be taken down. Why does he still inspire such strong feelings?
Rhodes was an imperialist, businessman and politician who played a dominant role in southern Africa in the late 19th Century, driving the annexation of vast swathes of land. He founded the De Beers diamond firm which until recently controlled the global trade. Scholarships allowing overseas students to come to Oxford University still bear his name. Many institutions, including Cape Town University itself, benefited from his largesse. Both Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) were named after him.
But in 2002, when the BBC conducted a poll on the 100 greatest Britons, Rhodes failed to make the list. That was despite it being the centenary of his death.
Those who want his the statues removed object to Rhodes as the ultimate representation of colonialism. Adekeye Adebajo, executive director of South Africa's Centre for Conflict Resolution, and a former Rhodes Scholar, has said the demands to remove the statue appear to be "a metaphorical call for the transformation of the university's curriculum, culture and faculty, which many blacks feel are alienating and still reflect a Eurocentric heritage".
Rhodes' detractors see him as a racist, and one of the people who helped prepare the way for apartheid by working to alter laws on voting and land ownership. In Zimbabwe, there are still calls to have Rhodes's remains moved to the UK, where he was born.
In South Africa, which has large disparities in wealth between ethnic groups, discussion of Rhodes has become strongly linked in recent weeks to a wider social debate.
"It is that statue that continues to inspire [white people] to think that they are a superior race," Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, describing itself as an anti-capitalist and anti-imperial organisation, has said, "and it is through collapsing of these types of symbols that the white minority will begin to appreciate that there's nothing superior about them."
It's clear that Rhodes thought of the English as a "master race".
"I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race," he once said. His famous desire was to be able to draw a "red line" from Cairo to Cape Town, building a railway across the entire continent of Africa without ever leaving British territory.
Rhodes wanted to create an international movement to extend British influence. "Why should we not form a secret society with but one object," he once said, "the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole world under British rule, for the recovery of the United States, for making the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire?"
His supporters saw him as having brought political and physical infrastructure to South Africa. But the critics now point to his time as prime minister of the Cape Colony, from 1890 to 1896, when his government effectively restricted the rights of black Africans by raising the financial qualifications for voting. At the same time he once reportedly said: "I could never accept the position that we should disqualify a human being on account of his colour."
He was controversial back in Britain even at the height of his influence. Arguably his most notorious moment was his backing of the disastrous Jameson Raid of 1895, in which a small British force tried to overthrow Paul Kruger, the Afrikaner president of the gold-rich Transvaal Republic. The raid helped prompt the Second Boer War, in which tens of thousands died.
"At best his conception of civilisation was empirical, if not vulgar," the Guardian noted in its obituary of Rhodes, "and in course of time most other ideals had for him to be subordinated to that of keeping up dividends."
Apartheid was introduced in 1948 and ended in 1991, but it has taken until now for there to be momentum behind removing statues of Rhodes. "I'm surprised that [the protesters] have come up with this at the moment," says Berny Sebe, author of Heroic Imperialists in Africa, a study of the enduring influence of Rhodes and others. "The year 2002, the 100th anniversary of his death, would have been a more obvious date."
But the targeting of the statue has in fact been going on for years, says Saul Dubow, professor of African history at Queen Mary University of London, and a former student at Cape Town. "I suspect he's become a soft target," he says. "The university authorities aren't going to defend Rhodes."
Rhodes is disliked by most black South Africans, Afrikaners and those of British heritage, Dubow suggests.
Law lecturer Pierre de Vos, who works at Cape Town University, thinks the timing is significant. "Ultimately, it seems to me the protesters are calling on us to recognise the uncomfortable strangeness of our country," he has written, "a country hovering halfway between a past from which it cannot escape and a future its citizens are too scared, filled with self-doubt or complacent to re-imagine and recreate in their own image."
Rhodes, born the son of a vicar in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, in 1853, was dogged by ill health as a child. He first came to Africa, where the climate was deemed better for him, aged 17. He grew cotton in Natal, but moved into diamond mining, gradually outwitting his rivals to become the dominant force in the trade.
The reason Rhodes's statue sat at the centre of the University of Cape Town's campus was that he bequeathed the land on which it was built.
Another of the reasons his name is well known today is the Rhodes Scholarships created via his will. These allow 83 students from the United States, Germany, Hong Kong, Bermuda, Zimbabwe and several Commonwealth countries - including a number of southern African nations - to come each year to Oxford University. Former US President Bill Clinton is probably the best known of the scholars.
Many buildings still bear his name, as does Rhodes University, set up in 1904 in Grahamstown, South Africa. Few leaders in the countries affected by Rhodes, including Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, have chosen to dismantle monuments to him, notes Sebe.
"Whether derided or praised," the historian Robert Rotberg has written, "he remains an object of calumny, obsequy and inquiry."
Rhodes said in life that he wanted to cheat the constraints of mortality by leaving a legacy.
But once again, Rhodes is at the centre of discussion.