Complexity is a default in Mushate’s life, as in the life of most Zimbabweans. Simple if it ever happens is a minor miracle, nothing less and has been for several generations. Over the past century, they have been overwrought and endured the upheavals of colonialism, the struggle for independences, post-colonial development and the concurrent economic political drama of land reform, HIV epidemic, sanctions and the hyperinflation crisis, often all at once. Add to this the physical and cultural upheavals of urbanisation and the impact of economic migration and their effect on families and you get a praecis of an average Zimbabwean’s psychological, cultural, economic, physical, intellectual and spatial default.
How does one bring a child into this reality? How does one parent in this present, how much faith can we recover in our hearts to build the courage to start? How does one reflect on one’s relationships in the generational chain, knowing now what one knows, also now knowing how much more one does not.
These are the touchstone questions at the heart of Shuviro Yamai (Mother’s Wish) a turbulent, resolute and defiant body of work, which insists that joy and beauty is not only possible but necessary in world where it is often an afterthought.
Beauty is often trivialized in contemporary art discourse as something that is superficial and something we need to apologise for, as a guilty pleasure, as something beneath lofty intellectual ambition. As though aesthetics do not emerge from fundamental laws of nature, as though adoration we feel when we look at the beauty of our children needs to be validated by something other than love.
Mushate does not allow us to be this small. Her canvases insist on courage and beauty as twin flames, which make life worth living. Colour negotiated by layers and woven lines, which dissolve and overwhelm human shapes into motion and space. They are all of our stories, in a world where we can only try to grasp at the meaning of anything we experience and are almost always guaranteed to fail. Mushate tells us tell that beauty exists, that joy is real, not as a destination but as a way of being. Not in spite of our circumstances but because that is the nature of life.
Mushate’s world in Shuvai Yamai is a space of ultimate uncertainty and ultimate freedom, where we shape our world rather than being shaped by it. It reminds the human in all of us that the chois of the artist, can also be our choice. While it might feel like falling, we can only live if we let go of the struggle to survive.