Ronald Muchatuta presents a powerful body of work titled, The African Immigration Series. The deliberately compact paintings focus on acts of xenophobia or what he describes as 'tribalism' that sees many African immigrants killed in attacks each year. The artworks play with the image of the carrier bag often referred to as the 'China bag' – a common item for those crossing borders worldwide. It is often the carrier bag, which contains everything the immigrants own. In essence, their entire life fits into the carrier and in comes to represent the sum of what the person is worth by capitalist standards.
The paintings boldly use the colours of the bag in red, white and blue, and weave their lines and patterns into the human form. “I wanted to push creativity without being overtly graphic in the display of violence, so I started playing with the lines of the bag.” The patterns of the bag often manifest in fire, representing apotheosis and spiritual release. The theme of his work is xenophobia and immigration – issues that are familiar to the Zimbabwean-born artist. His colorful and evocative oil paintings are a stark and painful reminder of the sad experiences African immigrants encounter in their host countries.
RONALD MUCHATUTA / The African Immigration Series, No. 11 – Becoming
The past few years have been extremely good to Muchatuta but it has not always been so. "I took a risk with this series without knowing if people would like it, but it is well received. It is paying homage and I am asking myself all kinds of questions. It could have been me, which triggered making work about this."
The immigration theme resonates in a painful way for Muchatuta. The research process was extremely difficult resulting in his having to question his own motivations and views on societal issues.