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Kudzanai Chiurai Biography

Harare-based artist and activist Kudzanai Chiurai uses painting, drawing, photography, performance, and video to examine sociopolitical and economic issues in Zimbabwe and South Africa, and their effects on African people of his generation.

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Early Years

Chiurai is considered a part of Zimbabwe's Born Free generation, born in Harare a year after the country officially gained independence in 1980 from white minority Rhodesian rule.

In 2004, Chiurai went to South Africa on self-imposed exile when he received arrest threats following the presentation of murals and artworks criticising then-President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwean government. While living in South Africa, Chiurai studied at the University of Pretoria, where he was the first Black student to graduate with a BA in Fine Art in 2006.

Kudzanai Chiurai Artworks

Working across disciplines, Kudzanai Chiurai's Zimbabwean upbringing and his years in South Africa influenced his interest in the potential for art as political commentary and activism.

Through narrative, figuration, symbolism, and staging, Chiurai's work reflects on intergenerational inequality, political conflict, socioeconomic disparities, and the ongoing impact of colonialism in Zimbabwe and South Africa. The artist also considers the dissonance between realities of living in Africa and western perceptions of the continent.

Paintings and Posters

Chiurai's paintings incorporate an expressionistic style, and often combine various images, text, and drawings in collage-like fashion. Mixed-media works such as Untitled VI (Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought) (2018) and Untitled XX (Blood Money: Season One) (2019) examine political themes through heavily abstracted figures, with roughly painted text and ambiguous images of buildings or birds collaged in the background.

Posters have also featured as a significant medium for political expression in Chiurai's practice. The 'Conflict Resolution' series (2008—ongoing) comprises a number of lithograph posters commenting on conflict in southern Africa. Overtly politicised slogans in works such as Untitled (We Always Have Reason to Fear) (2008), Abuse of Power (2009), and Vote at Own Risk (2009) are illustrated with images of political figures, soldiers, and weapons. As a form often associated with propaganda and political messaging, Chiurai's 'Conflict Resolution' posters make provocative statements on violence and power in Africa.

Photography and Video

Chiurai's videos and photographs possess a theatrical quality, typically presenting highly staged compositions with Black models and various symbolic props and backdrops.

The 'Revelations' series (2011) features a number of staged photographs that depict Black figures with props such as guns and are heavily edited with dramatic, cool lighting to appear almost painterly. In Revelations V (2011) a person confidently wields a large rifle against a backdrop of decorative wallpaper, plants, and banners; in Revelations XI (2011), two men engage in conversation in an ornately furnished room, with one man's bandaged feet hinting at a past act of violence. The large format photo series 'Moyo' (2013) considers media representations of violence in dramatically staged tableaus that seemingly glorify death or injury.

Engaged in representations of violence, sacrifice, or ritualistic processes, Chiurai's photographs and video works navigate tensions between colonial rule and independence; history and modernity; generational divides; and power and militarised masculinity.

The Library of Things We Forgot to Remember

Chiurai's ongoing mobile archive project, The Library of Things We Forgot to Remember (2017—ongoing) presents objects including posters, paintings, and vinyl records from African collections. Selected audio items include South African anti-apartheid struggle music, chimurenga (Zimbabwean political music), and recordings of historic African political speeches.

For each iteration of the project, Chiurai invites a different librarian to reflect on the archive and curate an exhibition based on its contents. The library has been staged in Harare, Cape Town, Kalmar, Södertälje, and Johannesburg, and its collection continues to expand. Chiurai aims to highlight forgotten ideas and dialogues in African culture while interrogating archival processes through a decolonial lens.

Tinashe Mushakavanhu writes for The Conversation: 'What Chiurai is doing is to incubate a new model for artistic creation and knowledge production that interferes with the circulation, display and preservation of cultural objects.'

On his website, Chiurai states: 'I consider the archival material and recording as broadcasts of Afro-futures. A frequency that mobilised and energised the struggle for independence and liberation. It's an archive that brings the past into the present and will continue to echo as we consider our futures.'


Chiurai was shortlisted for the Future Generation Art Prize in 2014. In 2012, he was the recipient of the FNB Art Prize.


Chiurai has exhibited extensively in solo and group shows worldwide since 2003.

Select solo exhibitions include Genesis [Je n'isi isi], We Live in Silence, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA), Stuttgart (2019); Madness and Civilization, Södertälje Konsthall, Stockholm (2019); Now and Then: Guercino and Kudzanai Chiurai, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), Cape Town (2018); We Live in Silence, Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Seattle (2018); Madness and Civilization, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town (2018); While the Harvest Rots, Lundgren Gallery, Palma (2018); We Need New Names, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare (2017); Regarding the Ease of Others, Zeitz MOCAA (2017); We Live in Silence, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg (2017); Kudzanai Chiurai: Iyeza, Rhode Island School of Design Museum (2015); Selection from Revelations, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, New York (2015).

Select group exhibitions include UBUNTU: A Lucid Dream, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2021); Photographs in Our Mother Tongue: The New South Africa Under Scrutiny, Standard Bank Art Gallery, Johannesburg (2021); Did you ever think there would come a time?, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town (2020); Allied with Power: African and African Diaspora Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection, Pérez Art Museum Miami (2020); Witness: Afro Perspectives, El Espacio 23, Miami (2020); Uptown South, Adler Beatty, New York (2020); Inheritance: New Video Art by Kudzanai Chiurai, Zina Saro-Wiwa and Mikhael Subotzky, Fowler Museum, Los Angeles (2019).


Chiurai's work is held in collections worldwide, including Museum of Modern Art, New York; 21c Museum Hotels Louisville, Kentucky; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Franks-Suss Collection, London; Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Stuttgart; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; The New Church Museum, Cape Town; Unisa Art Gallery, Pretoria.


Kudzanai Chiurai's website can be found here.

Misong Kim | Ocula | 2021

Kudzanai Chiurai
featured artworks

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Triangular Commerce VI (Death, Taxes, Revolt) by Kudzanai Chiurai contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, sculpture, photography, print
Kudzanai Chiurai Triangular Commerce VI (Death, Taxes, Revolt), 2021 Mixed media on handmade premium art paper
120 x 80 cm
Goodman Gallery
Triangular Commerce I (Death,Taxes, Eden) by Kudzanai Chiurai contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, sculpture, photography, print
Kudzanai Chiurai Triangular Commerce I (Death,Taxes, Eden), 2021 Mixed media on handmade premium art paper
120 x 80 cm
Goodman Gallery
His Fate by Kudzanai Chiurai contemporary artwork painting
Kudzanai Chiurai His Fate, 2021 Oil on canvas
209 x 165.5 x 7.5 cm
Goodman Gallery
Untitled XX (Blood Money: Season One) by Kudzanai Chiurai contemporary artwork works on paper, mixed media
Kudzanai Chiurai Untitled XX (Blood Money: Season One), 2019 Mixed media on Saunders archival cotton rag paper
125 x 100 cm
Goodman Gallery
Untitled VI (Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought) by Kudzanai Chiurai contemporary artwork works on paper
Kudzanai Chiurai Untitled VI (Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought), 2018 Mixed media on Saunders archival cotton rag paper
110 x 75 cm
Goodman Gallery
Iyeza by Kudzanai Chiurai contemporary artwork moving image
Kudzanai Chiurai Iyeza, 2011 Blu-ray DVD

Goodman Gallery
We Live in Silence I by Kudzanai Chiurai contemporary artwork print
Kudzanai Chiurai We Live in Silence I, 2017 Pigment ink on fibre paper
150 x 193.5 cm
Goodman Gallery Request Price & Availability
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Kudzanai Chiurai
current & recent

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Represented by this
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Goodman Gallery contemporary art gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa
Goodman Gallery London, Johannesburg, Cape Town
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