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15.09.2021 09:12 News >> Zimbabwean Artists Use Art As Medium Of Political Resistance

Zimbabwean Artists Use Art As Medium Of Political Resistance

Jeffrey Milanzi makes humorous drawings to highlight corruption, human rights abuses, inviting ire of authorities.

For the past several decades, Zimbabwean cartoonist Jeffrey Milanzi, 53, has used his humorous illustrations to highlight human rights abuses, corruption and indifferences of government.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the wizard of lines and curves said for years he has battled to escape the wrath of authorities who did not like him using the medium to speak against political repression.
Currently working for Alpha Media Holdings, which owns the country's main independent newspapers – NewsDay, The Standard and The Zimbabwe Independent -- Milanzi said despite the pressure, he wants to continue using his cartoons as a medium of resistance.
"I have been against corruption, especially when the perpetrators occupy high places, and also human rights abuses. So most of my cartoons are centered on those issues. They can be direct or indirect, but with some bit of humor," he said.
Milanzi's cartoons have often frazzled the nerves of politicians and military leaders, who have protested against some of his works.
"For the past 19 years that I have been doing cartoons, I've faced threats, especially during the Mugabe regime, when Jonathan Moyo was Minister of Information. He threatened me live on television about a cartoon I had done about the late DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] President Laurent Kabila," he said.
In one of his latest drawings, Milanzi drew parallels between Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa's prediction of an economic boom by 2030 and the worsening social, political and economic situation by the same year.
"I'm a person who wants humor, and so from an early age, I was always fascinated with art. As the years passed, I tried to combine humor with art because I believe a picture is worth a thousand words, and if people read a story and then see a picture, they would quickly get the message," he said.
Paranoid government
Elvis Mugari, a human rights defender, told Anadolu Agency that the regime is paranoid and would always find a case against any artist using his or her talent to register displeasure with it.
"Drawings or stone carvings that paint the regime in a bad light certainly have never ceased to draw trouble for the artists, who face intimidation left, right and center from authorities," he said.
Last year, the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) pushed for the Patriotic Bill in parliament which if adopted would send those who criticize the government to prison.
The bill threatens the work of artists like Milanzi, who have over the years been using the medium to highlight human rights abuses.
Yet as visual artists like Milanzi feel unsafe here, Zimbabwe's Minister of Information Monica Mutsvangwa thinks otherwise.
"The government has put into place machinery to deal with media complaints and any such cases of intimidation, including a constitutional independent body, the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), and a self-regulatory body, the Voluntary Media Council," Mutsvangwa told Anadolu Agency.
Reacting to claims of intimidation by visual artists here, she said "please give me instances of them submitting such type of complaints so that I can follow up. If need be, make them do their work."
Many cartoonists have joined to protest against the proposed legislation aimed at criminalizing freedom of expression.
Through visual art, several other artists like 29-year-old Tonderai Hove, a Harare-based sculptor, said he was silently staging protests using his sculptures. His works portray the broader economic and political malaise in the country.
"I speak out against repression using my stone carvings. I send a message through my work," he said, claiming that government spies have several times questioned him about some of his stone carvings. -



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