Xavier Robles de Medina
Zimbabwe 2015-2018

Robles de Medina spent four consecutive summers in Zimbabwe with the CTG Collective working outside Harare, at Dzimbanhete Arts and Culture Interactions center.

In 2015, while Robert Mugabe held the political reigns in Zimbabwe, Robles de Medina spent his time exploring the country’s spiritual side, its traditional Shona practices and beliefs. The sacred Nharina Caves became his daily pilgrimage and he would sit for hours drawing, fascinated by the textures of stone interplaying with slivers of light. One day, a band of babboons surrounded the caves from all sides. The village shaman, Samaita, later joked that they had come to critique his drawings.

The experience left a lasting impression on the young artist, then 25-years old, and he returned to Amsterdam to ponder the many similarities between Zimbabwe and his own post-colonialist homeland of Surinam. In highly detailed drawings, he dealt with stories of physical collision between black and white Zimbabweans within the context of the widely controversial land reform act of 2008. He questioned social and artistic categorizations, in search for a truth regarding his identity as it relates to the painting tradition. Both these and the caves were exhibited in 2016 at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Zig Zag Zim, a show curated by Catinca Tabacaru.

In 2017, Robles de Medina continued exploring these parallels, this time collaborating with Zimbabwean artist Terrence Musekiwa. Sans titre I (assemblage d’objets de Musekiwa réinterprétés dans l’espace) is an assemblage of objects and unfinished works from Musekiwa’s studio in Harare to be reinterpreted in space. Robles de Medina made, lit and photographed the installation, later using the images to make durational graphite on paper drawings.

By the time Summer 2018 arrived, the revolution had taken place, Mugabe had fallen, and the interim government had organized the country’s first democratic elections. The CTG collective arrived only days after the result was announced that ZanuPF, Mugabe’s old party, had won by a staggering 90% of the voting population… an interesting result given that only 70% of the polulation had gone out to vote. The results were contestd by the young opposition party and a public trial began. So was the atmosphere during Robles de Medina’s last trip to Zimbabwe. On the day of the Opening Reception of the CTG Collective’s final exhibition, the artist installed Court upholds ED poll victory, a work made from a rectangular box with a windowed face (an object popularly used in Zimbabwe to show the day’s newspaper) containing that morning’s newspaper. In a fortunate collision of news headline-meets visual tropes of painting, the rectangular wall object which is encrypted with history, on this particular day declared ZanuPF the official winner of the 2018 democratic elections per court decree.

I saw red and reacted (releasing his vitality to the sea), 2016, graphite on paper, 17 × 14 in | 43 × 35 cm

Samaita, 2016, graphite on paper, 17 × 14 in | 43 × 35 cm

Nharira Cave I (Zimbabwe), 2015, chromatic ink pen on paper, 11 × 7.5 in | 28 × 19 cm

Nharira Cave II (Zimbabwe), 2015, chromatic ink pen on paper, 11 × 7.5 in | 28 × 19 cm

Sans titre II (assemblage d’objets de Musekiwa réinterprétés dans l’espace), 2017, graphite on paper, 16 × 12 | 40 × 30 cm

Court upholds ED poll victory, 2018
woodbox, plexi, newspaper dated: August 25, 2018
24 × 17 in

Court upholds ED poll victory, 2018