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National Gallery of Zimbabwe Appoints Chikukwa Executive Director

By Tinashe Muchuri

The Board of Trustees of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe announced the appointment of Raphael Chikukwa as the Executive Director with effect from the 9th of September, 2020.

Chikukwa who had served the National Gallery of Zimbabwe for the past ten years as a Chief Curator and Deputy Director landed the Acting Director and Chief Curator post early this year after the retirement of Doreen Sibanda.

In a press statement to the media, the Board of Trustees acknowledged the role Chikukwa played in the development of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe when he joined it as a Chief Curator of Contemporary Art in 2010.

He is attributed for being instrumental in overseeing the installation of over ten exhibitions as well as developing the Gallery’s international reach and re-imagining its collection and in particular, the founding curator of the Zimbabwe Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 and has been involved in the organization of the country’s representation in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Chikukwa, a founding staff member of the PUMA-funded Creative Africa Network from 2008 to 2009, holds an MA in Curating Contemporary Design from Kingston University in London; is a recipient of the 2006-07 Chevening Scholarship and the American Centre Foundation Curatorial Research Grant in 2008. He graduated with a Post Grad Certificate in Arts and Culture Management from the University of Witwatersrand South Africa in 1997. 

Chikukwa also writes a lot about contemporary art and has contributed immensely in the area and some of his works appear in the following publications: Visions of Zimbabwe (2004); Mawonero/Umbono: Insights on Art in Zimbabwe (2016); and Kabbo Ka Muwala: Migration and Mobility in Contemporary Art (2017).

The Board believes Chikukwa will in his new role as Substantive Executive Director, provide strategic leadership for the gallery, including academic direction and articulating a compelling vision for the Museum’s development. He is entrusted to lead the development and realisation of the Museum’s exhibitions program and to foster the National Gallery of Zimbabwe’s relationship with the international institutional world.

In his acceptance speech, Chikukwa said he is very grateful for being given the opportunity to head one of the great art institutions in Africa and to contribute to its visibility.

“This appointment is an opportunity to continue the work started by those that came before me. I am looking forward to this new path and working with artists across the continent and with other cultural institutions in Africa and around the globe,” Chikukwa said.

The Board of Trustees of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe represented by its Chairperson, Dr. Solomon Guramatunhu also took the opportunity to acknowledge the service rendered to the institution by its retired former Executive Director, Doreen Sibanda whom they described as a tireless and diligent worker whose term was affected by the country’s harsh economic environment.

“It is good, could be more effective by acknowledging that Raphael is taking over from Doreen Sibanda, who retired after working tirelessly and diligently to successfully position the gallery under a very harsh economic environment. The Board of Trustees expresses its heartfelt gratitude to Doreen Sibanda, wishing the best in her post-retirement plans,” Dr. Guramatunhu said.

Under the acting role of Chikukwa, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe which is affected the same way as other economic actors in the country was now transforming from a physical gallery into a digital hub of activities connecting with the world an act disturbed by the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic lockdown conditions.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende