excerpt from the introduction...

Stepping off a minibus taxi some 25km outside of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, I found myself wandering down a long dirt road, only long grassland to see for miles in every direction, but the feint sound of mbira travelling gently on the wind towards me. The more we walked, the louder the Mbira got and I soon realized it was coming from the art centre we had come to visit, Dzimbanhete. On arrival, we were welcomed by kids running around, two mbira players jamming on their own, oblivious to the newcomers, a resident healer drops by to give his greetings. We are taken on a tour of the gallery, the healing space, the many traditionally constructed buildings from various parts of the continent, we cross a field to the outdoor stage for the annual Mbira festival, the ancient San rock paintings on the site, all the while with traditional beer in hand. There was something very deeply familiar about the place, and the choices that these artists were making. There was a definitive quotidian and domestic ordinariness to this art space, as well as very distinct sense of a people attuned to the critical training, aesthetic and art historical terminologies, euro-American art residencies and global biennales of the contemporary art scene, and yet also a very deep rootedness in context, history, community and purpose. They were making choices about what mattered most for their own practice, and seeking strategies to test, experiment and explore way of making art and life in common. These artists were interweaving their communities, territories, political urgencies, creative imaginaries and artistic practice to create space for a way of being that was at once deeply inspiring to me, but also set in motion a need to think together about what was happening here.

Common Life is an experiment in thinking together. It is an opportunity to explore and test strategies for artistic practice that are deeply tethered to the places from which they have emerged, and strongly committed to the potential for art to generate ways of living together, in common. It is a relatively modest contribution, developed over the period of 18 months, to a big and broad subject – intending to ask big questions, and swim in the wonderous possibilities that arts initiatives on the African continent are making, testing and playing with everyday. Common life is an invitation into curious inquiry, into dreaming together.

The project is informed by the need to take seriously, ways of organizing and making art in community, on the African continent. In so doing, we potentially offer strategies of practice that have relevance to the places that we inhabit, but also offer beyond our localities, ways of being and practices of life that emerge from the specificities of our contexts. The project is driven too, by the foundational premise for the practitioners of this research, that artistic practice has a role to play in the recentering of African dignity and the recognition of that which is immeasurably sacred about life.

Download the full publication here: