Spirituality is what fuels the work of Zimbabwean-born artist Ronald Muchatuta. The soft-spoken artist has been working in Cape Town since moving there in 2007, but it has not been easy. Working independently as an artist and being from Zimbabwe have meant life often is a struggle, and he is no stranger to xenophobia. Ronald Muchatuta presenst 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 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 colors 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 colourful and evocative oil paintings are a stark and painful reminder of the sad experiences African immigrants encounter in their host countries. Recently Muchatuta has been finding opportunities in various galleries around South Africa and internationally. It is immediately clear when getting to know Muchatuta that he reflects deeply and philosophically upon all the work he creates.
RONALD MUCHATUTA / The African Immigration Series, No. 5 – Wrapped
Muchatuta said the series had been conceptualised during the second wave of xenophobic attacks since 2011, and took form fully over the last few years. It looks at the emotions people experience during migration. The series is a reminder to South Africans of the ugly truth behind intolerance.