Construction of Kariba Dam Wall

By Raphael Chikukwa
26 September 2011

More on the exhibit here

Kariba Dam construction was one of the major projects in the 1950s and today its story remains vivid in the minds of those that worked on it and those that were affected by the dam.

Arguably though, more than 50 years later visions of Kariba construction artworks remain under-represented in the cultural sphere of contemporary art.

In view of Ten Thousand Men and Six Years of Sweat: Visions of Kariba Construction, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe brings together four artists from our Permanent Collection, plus a documentary film about Kariba Construction.

The exhibition is displaying the works by the following artists – Giovanni Novarasio (Italian artist), Waalko Dingermens, Sir Cyril J. Hatty and Taylor Nkomo. Giovanni and Dingermens documented the construction of the dam from the 1950s to the 1960s.

More than 14 works from Giovanni have never seen the light of the day and we saw this as an opportunity to showcase these great works.

These two artists’ documentation started from early construction to the cable towers, while Taylor Nkomo’s sculpture, “Tonga Man Crossing Zambezi River” reflects the myth of the Tonga people’s movement across the Zambezi.

At the centre of the Courtauld Gallery is a representation of the Tonga artefacts; the Makishi Dance costume, Tonga drums, stool and fish trap.

These artefacts represent the Tonga people who mainly resided in the Zambezi area and some are now living on the other side of the border in Zambia.

Their way of life was affected by the construction of the dam, hence the artefacts identify with the Tonga people who were displaced because of the dam.

Nevertheless, their way of life remains in the spotlight for they are still thirsty for electricity yet it was one of the main ideas of the dam, to provide electricity for all.

Today the Tonga people who were resettled in Nyaminyami 15km from Kariba still do not have electricity more than 50 years after the construction of Kariba Dam.

This exhibition seeks to reveal the history of the construction of Kariba Dam from these four artists’ view.

Some of these issues include the myths surrounding the Tonga people, displacement, loss, gains and environmental impact of the dam to the Zambezi inhabitancy.

These four artists’ narratives take us back to the vision of Kariba construction that was mainly to provide electricity to the industry and community.

The late Sir Cyril Hatty’s view of Kariba at night shows the beauty of the dam while the documentary takes the viewer back to the early days of the construction to the end.

Ten Thousand Men and Six Years of Sweat exhibition occupies the entire Courtauld Gallery with additional works in the West corridor. The exhibition will run from September to mid-November 2011.

The exhibition is collaboration between the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and the National Archives.

Raphael Chikukwa curated the work and is also the Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.