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Artists Celebrate Freedom at Gallery Delta

ART lovers and collectors, no longer having to make do with virtual presentations, were treated to a post-Covid feast of the visual arts last weekend. On Saturday, an exhibition entitled Freedom was opened by His Excellency the Ambassador of Greece, Mr Loukas Karatsolis, at Gallery Delta, in Robert Paul’s Old House, in Livingstone Avenue.

Celebrating 200 years of Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire after a bloody and heroic war lasting nine years, the Greek community came together with many of the brightest and best of Zimbabwe’s visual artists, for an exceptional art exhibition.

All Lives Matter, by Lovemore Kambudzi

Sadly absent from this special occasion were Helen Lieros, former rock star of the art world, and her husband, Derek Huggins, author, publisher and co-founder of Gallery Delta in 1975. Dying within days of each other last July, this dynamic couple was present only in spirit at the exhibition they had both planned as a celebration of Helen’s Greek Heritage, her life in Zimbabwe, the Arts, and the ideals of freedom.

Greg Shaw, a former star art pupil of Helen Lieros, and now Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Gallery Delta, spoke about the immense contribution made by Helen and Derek to the art world, before welcoming Ambassador Karatsolis, and Father George Saganis who said some prayers and blessed the opening of the exhibition.

The concept of freedom was expressed in different ways by each artist. A striking steel sculpture by renowned sculptor Arthur Azevedo, entitled Freedom and Death Captain Michalis, refers to the leader of a group of Cretan guerrillas, immortalised in a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, who rebelled against Ottoman rule. Note the beard on Azevedo’s sculpture; Kapetan (rebel leader) Michalis has sworn to remain unshaven and dressed in black until Crete has been freed.

Freedom and Death, Kapetan Michalis

Spirits of the Soil Jacket, by Albert Wachi

All Lives Matter, a large-scale oil on canvas painting by Lovemore Kambudzi, is typical of the grand style of this highly successful artist. A Black Maria, crammed with demonstrators, is being driven through the crowds. Banners calling for freedom of the press are trampled underfoot, while placards demanding ‘Free Them All’ are waved aloft. Kambudzi’s instantly recognisable pointillist style is used to chronicle daily life in Zimbabwe. His compositions demand our attention, revealing courage, despair and sadness, made bearable by the humour of his cartoon-like characters.

Albert Wachi, who has been making art for most of his life, is best known for his abstract sculptures in stone and wood. After exhibiting his work for the first time in 1988 at Gallery Delta’s Exhibition of Young Artist’s of Promise, his career continued on an upward trajectory. Spirits of the Soil, a mixed media sculpture of a jacket, suggests a depiction of Everyman in Zimbabwe, someone struggling to come to terms with his aging body, his mortality, and a life not lived as well as it could have been. In spite of poverty, the colourful buttons decorating the jacket, show that the fabric of his life has been interspersed with humour, love and rejoicing.

There is sheer delight in Dust Dance, a photograph by David Brazier. A family group, hands joined, appear to skip and whirl in the golden glow of the setting sun, punctuated by storm clouds above, and the dark silhouette of distant trees on the horizon. Untramelled  by any rules or restrictions, their freedom is absolute.

Generous donations for the Freedom exhibition included a bounteous feast of Greek specialities – dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with flavoursome minced beef), keftedes (spicy meatballs), samosas, and numerous dips and crudites (crisp batons of cucumber and carrot). Barman Eddy, who has been on duty at every Gallery Delta opening, kept cool drinks and chilled white wine flowing throughout the afternoon.

The idea for the Freedom Exhibition arose out of a collaboration between the Greek community in Zimbabwe, and Helen Lieros and Derek Huggins. It celebrates not only the milestone of 200 years of Greek Independence, but also the contribution to the world of art in Zimbabwe from a remarkable couple.