Angela Sibanda, showbiz journalist
After realizing that African supernatural stories are less talked about in social spheres, visual artist Ishmael Singo recently launched a chilling yet insightful Magoritoto/ghost art series, which aims to encourage indigenous peoples to face their fears and fight negative resolutions such as suicide.
In African societies, magoritoto/zvipoko/izipoko/amathonga are common names used to refer to ghosts and local people have so many scary stories to tell about their encounters.
The common aspect of these myths is that you should not run away when you see them for fear of hurting yourself and having a permanent injury.
An exhibition which opened last Friday took art lovers on a chilling journey exploring works of art showing flashes of what people see and experience at night.
During the first months of the strict Covid-19 lockdowns that began in 2020, Singo embarked on a quest to divert his work from simply being a beautiful work of art.
Speaking to art lovers at the official opening of the exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo, Laxon Magandiwa, who is Singo’s uncle, said he grew up hearing stories about the supernatural world and that at some point he had had a personal experience.
“We grew up hearing stories about the existence of these things. Most think they are just fairy tales, but I personally encountered them once in my life. One of the years I visited to my in-laws in Mupandawana, Gutu in Masvingo province.I traveled by bus and arrived late around 10pm.
The bus stop was about 30 km from the farm. There was another man going in the same direction so we joined. Along the way we came across something like a fire, it was 500m away. It was moving upwards like a shooting star and when it rose it burst into small fires which then fell,” Magandiwa said.
He said a small area where he fell was then covered in small fires.
“I always share this experience with my children. Even though we can’t really know what it is, supernatural beings do exist and that’s all we have to keep in mind,” said Magandiwa who was also instrumental in producing the paintings.
During the launch, the crowd had a scary experience where they had to enter a cabin, a small plastic room characterized by less bright and scary paintings. When inside the cabin, the voices of those outside sounded like spooky ghostly noises.
Singo said the series was a new path he wanted to take to expose vast African supernatural beliefs and encourage people to face their personal ghosts and avoid societal bad practices such as suicide.
“Starting this series was an opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone of painting ordinary, everyday things. I started it during the strict Covid-19 shutdowns and gathered the information in questioning around me, especially the elderly,” he said.
Singo said that when old people told him their stories, he imagined the things they said and that’s where he found inspiration.
He admitted that the stories remain a myth for him as he has never come across anything close to what he was told.
“These are our own stories as African societies. European countries tell their own stories of zombies, vampires and go so far as to make films. The stories also remain a myth,” Singo said.
He said his art series is just a way to tell the scary stories of African people and help each other face our fears.
Singo said local people had a lot of experience with ghosts, but there was not much to say about it.
“We have heard so many stories such as Jane the Ghost, Thula Bhetshulude and all kinds of stories. These paintings are a glimpse of what people are going through and through them I seek to encourage people to face their demons head on and inspire them to talk about things they are afraid of.
There are a lot of things that bother us on a personal level and you find people committing suicide simply because they fail to deal with their problems and things that would haunt them. It’s when you let it out that you get people to listen to you and even help you,” he said.
Australia’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bronte Moules, who was part of the exhibit, shared her own experiences.
“The booth is very scary but the paintings carry the message that we have to face our own ghosts in life because each of us has our own things haunting them and we are always afraid to face them,” he said. she declared. .