A Conversation With Natasha Kudita: Talking Fine Art and the Zimbabwean Art Space

The first time, well the only time rather, that I got to experience Natasha Kudita's work was back in July last year at Pikicha Gallery's public opening. It was the Roots & Routes exhibit. A tale of two sisters. A beautiful display of fine art and photography was visual storytelling at its very best. A reimagined journey into the past & present that felt thought-provoking in terms of the possibilities. I had often been a skeptic when it came to digital art but this Saturday Natasha Kudita made me a believer. 

Natasha Kudita at the Pikicha Gallery's official opening last year
Natasha Kudita at the Pikicha Gallery's official opening last year

It was her first exhibition in Harare and Zimbabwe as a whole. Then her work had mainly been on display in Pretoria. The Roots & Routes exhibit was also the debut of her piece titled Musika. An artwork she sets apart as one of the defining pieces so far in her young career and it was an instant favourite on the occasion. Among the few other artworks that she holds in high regard, there's also Upenyu and Mai mwana. The former being a piece she found extremely therapeutic to create and it was one she dedicated to raising awareness about GBV (Gender Based Violence). 

Natasha Kudita
Upenyu by Natasha Kudita

Kudita has specialized in the mediums of digital illustration and abstract painting. She describes her journey into art as beginning in high school and culminating in her studying fine art at university.

In high school I was always a creative kid, I leaned more towards subjects like English Literature, English Language, and Art & Design. But whilst I was doing art at A level, I wanted to expand my mind in terms of what art is and understanding the history of art and what art can be in the present because we were mostly limited to drawing still live objects like shoes and sort of observational drawing and I wanted to venture into conceptual art. So that's how I got started, that was like the bridge between high school and studying art in uni.

She also stated that there was a big adjustment in terms of what was expected of her when she started studying toward a professional degree. They were a lot of demands but in terms of the overall experience, she really enjoyed it because there was always something new to learn. The fine arts program offers up a variety of things like sculpture, photography, painting, drawing, design, woodwork and steelwork. So there is a range of things to choose from, which keeps things interesting.  

In her art journey, Kudita also benefited from supportive parents and a sister who had already broken barriers by taking the journey into art first.

I grew up in a very supportive and encouraging environment so it wasn't hard for me to be able to study fine art. I'm actually grateful that my parents allowed me to pursue that career. I think it's also because my sister had already opened that door for me so it was quite an easy adjustment. 

From conceptualizing the idea to the finished piece, Kudita can often take anywhere from 3 days to 3 months. She does a lot of reading, especially on colonial identity and hybridity in identity formations. Looking at how black identity can be showcased in a positive light instead of oppressive or one-dimensional views is often the basis of her works. Added to this is inspiration from her environment and photography, which kickstart the process of creating one of her masterpieces.

So it starts with references, lots of references and inspiration. Then I start to create digitally and in that process, I take the image then I deconstruct it then start to construct it again by breaking it down to the formal elements of art, like colours, lines and shapes. I combine those until it forms one image but in that sense when you stand really close to the artwork you might only see shapes but when you step backwards you see the bigger picture. 

When it comes to Zimbabwe and art, Kudita feels like the local art space is still geared toward traditional & realistic painting. She believes that art is meant to be a liberating experience for the viewer and that they should feel something when they experience the artwork. So by not embracing diversity, versatility and playfulness, the local art space robs people of the full art experience. 

People who really understand and appreciate art want to know the story and they want to see the story because art speaks to that nonverbal part of ourselves. So I would say the painting space is lacking in exciting visual language.

Art has often not been the most lucrative of careers in Zimbabwe. However, Kudita refuses to be another stereotypical struggling artist lost in the altruism of it all. In her view, it is only difficult to earn from art because of a lack of opportunities to learn the business side of it and monetise creativity. She's been working in the art industry for around 5 years now and she finds that it's all about collaborating with other people. The example she gave was how she utilizes a Zimbabwean platform in the UK to sell physical prints of her art while shipping art to Nigeria and South Africa and selling it locally. 

Kudita is positioning herself as an artist based in Zimbabwe but with an international reach, and that has really helped her. She sees the appreciation for fine art in Zimbabwe as still growing but appreciates places Pikicha Gallery and sees exhibitions like hers as helping in getting more people to start appreciating what artists have to offer. 

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