Kubuni Exhibition: A spotlight on Zimbabwean comic book artists

Animators. Illustrators. Cartoonists. Graphic novelists. Comic book artists. These are creatives often overlooked by the system. A phenomenon caused not only by Zimbabwean culture but also pop culture itself and of course our tricky economics. 

It's so much so that the platforms that are supposed to celebrate these creatives, seem to just overlook them. The National Arts & Merits Awards don't have a category dedicated to animation or graphic novels and that's the highest awarding body for creatives in Zimbabwe. It is often that creatives in this sector are recognized internationally without any recognition at home.

While underfunded, as with a lot of the arts in the country, the creatives in this sector, particularly the comic book artists, have not stopped creating. 

Kubuni Exhibition

The Kubuni Exhibition brings a platform to not only celebrate them but African comic book artists as a whole. Kubuni, which means “imaginary creation” in Swahili, is a journey through the past, present and future of African comics. After gracing Alliance Française Bulawayo, the festival has now come to Harare as part of the ongoing Francophone Week.

Officially opened this past weekend, the exhibition was launched with a live drawing contest, open gallery and comic fair reading lounge. The exhibition will be open from the 9th to the 24th of March at Alliance Française Harare. Presented in partnership with Comexposed (a platform supporting comic book artists and other creators in Zimbabwe and Africa), the French Institute and the Alliances Française network in Southern Africa, the Harare edition of Kubuni is putting a spotlight on Zimbabwean comic book artists. 

Listed below are 9 Zimbabwean comic book artists who will have their work on showcase for the exhibition's 2 weeks:

Tinodiwa Makoni

Jamie Selby Philip

Rey Manyengawana 

Cherish Waldman

Daniel Sithole

James Magwenzi

Tapiwa Sikota

Tafadzwa Shumba

Tatenda Ndove

Kubuni adds a lending hand to the work that has been done by Comexposed in creating a comic book space and community in Zimbabwe. One of Zimbabwe's successes in the comic book space, Bill Masuku, who hosted a workshop on African and Zimbabwean comics on the exhibition's opening day, describes the installation as not only a celebration but an exchange of culture.

Bill Masuku Kubuni Exhibition
Bill Masuku 

[The Kubuni exhibition is] like a celebration you can walk into of French and African comic books, with a particular focus on Zimbabwean comic book artists and writers who have their works showcased in a separate section of the gallery. The culture exchange brings together France's own history of comic books with Zimbabwe's fresh history. - Bill Masuku 

A regular attendant at Comic Con Africa, Masuku has been presented with opportunities that have allowed him to guest lecture the Wits University Digital Arts course on Afro Manga (African Comics inspired by the Japanese industry), showcase my work at DC Comics' international event DC FanDome. Masuku believes comic books offer a unique fusion of literature and artistic expressions that can bridge cultures.

I have many thoughts on the local comics space, on the Saturday I gave a 3 hour long workshop on comic books in southern Africa covering the major creators in Zimbabwe and future of the industry. But to summarise many of us have regional or international recognition before we're recognised locally. I had mentioned on twitter that there's no NAMA category for graphic novels, and it would be ideal to have an awards board validate the work we do. - Bill Masuku

Masuku believes graphic illustration can be a sustainable career and feels that creators are not too far from that.

Between Nafuna and Alula creating high quality animations for commercials and corporates the only space left for us to develop is having narrative animations for series and feature length. We're not too far from that as we are all skilling up at an incredible pace. - Bill Masuku

In terms of advice he would give to the next generation of creators in the field, the illustrator believes they should be open to learning above everything else.

Artistic skill is only part of what you need to make it. Being a team player. Recognising opportunities, and a willingness to both be wrong and find ways to improve are all the starting line on the marathon of your successful careers. - Bill Masuku 

The Kubuni Exhibition is free to view for the public during the day until the 24th of March.

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