The Culture Interview, Patson Ncube, Director/Curator, Kizito Arts Movement
Who are you and where are you based?
Kizito, a visual protest artist based in London. I was born in Zimbabwe in a small town called Gwanda and grew up in a township called Gwabalanda, a vibrant community of people full of love for life, music and Ubuntu. This was the new Zimbabwe enjoying the fruits of freedom after the liberation struggle from white rule. People cared and shared whatever they had and treated each other with respect. That’s the spirit of Ubuntu.
What’s your background?
I went to catholic boarding schools and thought of joining the priesthood. That changed after reading Animal Farm. After secondary school, l taught Geography and Maths in a rural school in Zimbabwe then volunteered to implement AIDS Awareness programmes. Everything was fine at the beginning but then life became unbearable at home. I remember sitting on a dusty roadside with my best friend…we were broke, unemployed, hungry and angry. We raised a little money within a week, booked train tickets to Harare and the following day applied for visas to Mozambique. 2 days later, we were in Mozambique and got jobs in a tiny beautiful beach lodge in Vilanculos. This experience changed my outlook on life; then I found myself in London, studying mental health nursing for a year. Then tried Business studies and Economics… it was boring and unimaginative nor creative. So I decided to follow my childhood dream to be an artist. Parents in Africa never push their children into the arts. So when l arrived in the UK and found myself away from home and family, I decided to enrol into art school. These were the best 3 years of my life – I loved every moment of it and the freedom art offered. I like challenges and decided to be an art teacher. I completed my PGCE at Cambridge University where I taught for 4 years at Comberton Village College. Decided to move back to London to run an Art-based regeneration project, encouraging young black people to engage with the Arts. It’s tough being young and black in the UK. Nearly half of Britain’s young black people are jobless which MP Diane Abbott called the “the tragedy of the 44%”.
Who are your favourite characters from African film, literature or art?
Yinka Shonibare is one of my favourites. His work is poetic in its simplicity. He touches on issues that l have strong views on such as colonialism and post-colonialism. Then Dambudzo Marechera, the enfant terrible of African literature. “House of Hunger” is my bible. He was a genius, a God against gods. I get emotional when l think about him, his work and sayings, like – “I don’t hate being black. I’m just tired of saying it’s beautiful”. His poem “Where the bastard is God” inspired one of my paintings “God is a Nigger”.
What are your ambitions for yourself as an artist?
To open a creative school in Africa. Africa needs to protect her creative ideas and be a force in the creative industries internationally. I am working with Studio Moorph in designing a creative space, an interactive learning environment. Everything I do focuses around young people and creating a healthy environment for their growth. I am currently looking for public and private investors. Changing people’s lives is a work of ART.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on several projects. I have an art collective called the Kizito Arts Movement that seeks to promote the arts and spread the philosophy of Ubuntu. I am also working on a retrospective and dynamic multidisciplinary showcase in conjunction with International Women’s Month 2013. It will be a unique blend of some of the finest UK and International artists of all genres, spoken word, visual art, music, a live performance and theatrical performance set in a new and exciting contemporary space. The proceeds from this event will go to art workshops and talks created to empower and engage women. This will be at Cre8 Life Style Centre where l work as a curator. The Cre8 Life Style Centre is a creative hub with a gallery, media centre, sport and performance space in the heart of East London’s artistic community. I am working alongside some of the UK’s young talent such as I.C Movement, the David Stinson Theatre School and Threads TV. Developed and managed by the London Coaching Foundation, Cre8 showcases London’s 2012 legacy movement in the “emerging East”. It’s the brainchild of John Herbert, the CEO and l am so privileged to be working in this space.
What’s the most sublime artistic experience you’ve ever had?
In 2000, l had the opportunity to watch 2 films by Steve McQueen, Western Deep and Carib’s Leap at the abandoned Lumiere in the West End. Carib’s Leap was based on the mass suicide jump in Grenada; rather than surrender to the French soldiers, many Caribs committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. Western Deep was one clever piece by Steve McQueen. Though he always states that it’s not political, IT’S VERY POLITICAL! It was shot at Western Deep, the deepest goldmine in the world, near Johannesburg. It tackled every issue about exploitation. This film was a journey into hell. The cinema turned pitch black, a blackness so frightening. The concrete floor was cold and uncomfortable. Then a terrifying noise of clanking and rumbling, which made your insides move and shake. The walls and floor were shaking, I was shaking and sweating. To be honest, l was shitting my pants and l know lots of people were too. Several people walked out. It was mind-blowing and one of the most physically powerful pieces of filmmaking I’ve ever experienced. 12 years later, we have the Marikana miners’ strike or Lonmin strike at a mine owned by Lonmin in the Marikana area, South Africa in 2012. Interesting???
What’s your greatest fear – either for yourself [as an artist] – or for Africa?
A Chinese invasion of Africa. We must stop selling our continent for peanuts. It’s embarrassing and again we are repeating the cycle. To all young Africans; this is our time and let’s fight for it. It’s the new generation, my generation that must unite and stop this exploitation of our homelands. Africans in the Diaspora and at home; we must form alliances to protect the future of Africa. The old generation must let go and give us the responsibility to lead. We have the skills, the manpower, the talent and it breaks my heart to see all this go to waste.