Moffat Takadiwa working with computer keys at Rhodes University. Picture: SUPPLIED
Moffat Takadiwa working with computer keys at Rhodes University. Picture: SUPPLIED

A day after he arrived in SA from Zimbabwe, Moffat Takadiwa went to knock on the door of the courier company that had brought his cargo to Grahamstown. The boxes were loaded with the plastic keys of discarded computer keyboards.

He heaped them on the floor of the RAW Spot Gallery which was to be his studio for two months. The computer keys, gathered from dump sites in Johannesburg, were the raw materials for his project during his residency. He uses these and other remnants of consumables such as perfume containers and bottle tops for his trademark sculptural artworks.

Takadiwa paid much attention to the #RhodesMustFall movement which started at the University of Cape Town in 2015 and spread through SA and to Oxford University in the UK. He was fascinated by the students’ call for the transformation of curricula as they criticised the focus on foreign higher learning institutions while indigenous knowledge systems are disregarded.

Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o and literary theorist Walter Mignolo had a great influence on his thinking, Takadiwa says. He is also inspired by the creative energy of the late Zimbabwean literary genius Dambudzo Marechera.

He is proud of the postindependence generation of contemporary artists from Zimbabwe who have taken the world by storm, but is too modest to class himself with them. He is quick to give credit to his mentor, Chikonzero Chazunguza, who has guided many of the top modern artists in Zimbabwe.

At the height of Zimbabwe’s economic hardships — when his students could barely afford canvases, paints and brushes — “Chiko”, as he is affectionately called, taught them to work with any other object they could find.

Takadiwa set out to work in Grahamstown like a bee tasked with feeding the entire hive. He was given six Rhodes University fine arts students to assist him — Aadila Chand, Aimelee Richter, Jodie Pather, Philippa Taylor, Thabisa Mafana and Wynona Mutisi. He always works with a team.

The computer keys first had to be sorted by colour, size and shape, and then cleaned. For the work he produced, Takadiwa mostly used the black keys. Holes had to be drilled and the keys twined together in a very meticulous way.

 Takadiwa is a man on a mission; he is planning some projects in Harare. He aims to collaborate with young thinkers — of all disciplines — who want to join the bid to breathe new life into the city. He would like them to help find solutions for problems resulting from a lack of service delivery by the local government.

His main aim is to impart positive values to communities through creative efforts, and to leave a mark on the local arts scene. 

Although he says he is inspired by the Chimurenga music maestro Thomas Mapfumo, Takadiwa often listens to Mokoomba, a group from Victoria Falls. They have made it on the world stage, yet are relatively unknown at home where the focus is on artists from Harare and Bulawayo and not the peripheries, he says.

During his two-month residency under the Residencies for Artists and Writers programme of the Arts of Africa and Global Souths research unit in the department of fine arts at Rhodes University, Takadiwa completed his Framed Through Colonial Lenses exhibition.

He then went back to Zimbabwe for a few days to plan for his next project, which is in the Netherlands. His work is part of a group exhibition titled Language Is The Only Homeland at the Nest Gallery in The Hague. It runs until November 11.