Permanent Collection, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, 1993-1995
Chambers performed extensive curatorial work at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. The following exhibitions are just a few of the many he put together from the Gallery's Permanent Collection.
In pre-colonial Zimbabwe, technology and the arts were successfully combined to produce the material requirements of a culture
dating back a millenium. The people of Zimbabwe had developed technology appropriate for the manufacture of tools, implements, weapons, vessels, musical instruments and ornaments of all kinds
which demonstrate ingenuity and originality, a sophisticated understanding of the natural environment and above all, a quality of life in which cultural values were fully appreciated. They
developed a fine sense of aesthetic understanding and examples of this (and can still be found) comprise the Zimbabwean display. This society and culture has its roots in a history stretching
back one thousand years. They settled on the plateau region of modern day Zimbabwe. And pastoral and agricultural activities were the major occupations of these people. The mining and smelting
of iron, copper and gold also featured prominently. Ornaments and weaponry were wrought from these metals. Intercontinental trade was one of the most important activities of the Zimbabwe State.
Trade goods imported by the rulers of Zimbabwe included fine cloth (machira), beads, brass and copper wire, porcelain, ndoro and other items were introduced and bartered for precious gold and
ivory. Gold brought foreigners to Zimbabwe throughout the last one thousand years. Arabs, Swahili and Portuguese traders brought their beads, textiles, ceramics and glassware to exchange for
gold and ivory. During the Portuguese phase - lasting from 1500 to 1900 - a number of wholly indigenous industries were revived and took on greater importance for the communities in which they
were practiced. Cotton cultivation and weaving were introduced. The reliance on locally forged iron suffered from the competition of imported material. The gradual decline of the local cloth
and iron industry accelerated after the effective seizure and annexation of Zimbabwe in the 1890s by the administration of the British South Africa Company which marked the beginning of the
colonial era in Zimbabwe's history. Many cultural traditions were suppressed through exposure to Western influences alien to their own culture. Most of these traditions were revived during the
struggle against colonialism (Material Goods of Zimbabwe).
These stone sculptures are the early works ... 1950s - 1970s ... by Zimbabwean sculptors as a result of the workshops held at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe by
Frank McEwen (first director).
Abstractionism: Unrelated to world appearances. It poses difficulties of understanding and judgment, and calls into question the very nature of art. It apparently refers only to invisible, inner states or simply to itself. Some Abstract Art is 'abstracted' from nature; its starting point is the 'real' world. A form is selected, then simplified until the image bears only stylized similarities to the original, or is changed almost entirely beyond recognition. Other Abstract Art has no apparent connection to the external world. This new 'non-representational' mode provided a thorough-going challenge to the depictive tradition, governed since the Renaissance by the rules of single-point perspective, and during the course of this Century, it has been refined and developed in a startling variety of ways. What Abstract Art has helped to show is that in fact all art makes theoretical assumptions and exploits conventions. Although it may seem more accessible, Representational Art is based on quite complex suppositions and rules concerning reality and imitation. Abstract Art also rests on a wide range of assumptions and conventions ... less familiar, perhaps, but no less valid (Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska, 1990, Thames and Hudson Ltd., London).
Abstract Expressionism: It amounts to a puzzling quality of narrative suppressed or made secret. What is seen
is sufficiently occult to indicate a larger life outside the frame, of events and climaxes either just past or about to happen. Furthermore, an emphasis on surfaces implies that much remains
beneath the surface, especially since an erstwhile public realm has been turned into an existential space. The collective unconscious is made known through mediators or 'archetypes'; primal
figures, symbols and the groupings associated with them that populate dreams and myths which resemble signs pointing towards things hidden and complex. Hence, to picture the innermost recesses
of the natural world, it becomes a metaphor of life's origins, of its phylogeny ... the rediscovery of the authentically primitivist vision of the totem as a hybrid between an animate presence
and a sign, sometimes geometric or schematic in character, yet still embodying potent forces. The priority is to find a 'pictorial equivalent' for man's new knowledge and consciousness of his
more complex innerself (Abstract Expressionism, David Anfram, 1990, Thames and Hudson Ltd., London).
The paintings span 250 years (mid-16th Century - late 18th Century) of Art History by the Old Masters from Paolo Caliari Veronese's Astronomer and Patriarch to Thomas Gainsborough's Portrait of Francis Browne. The sculptures are by Auguste Rodin.