Fadzai Muchemwa, National Gallery of Zimbabwe: a brand new perspective
Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa, Assistant Curator, National Gallery of Zimbabwe
Ways of seeing: a brand new perspective
I was the first to arrive and found Hayk waiting for me at the airport. We waited a little bit for Zulfikli to arrive and then we were off to Schafer house where Claire and Rebecca were waiting for us. They were so great with us that I soon forgot that I had left home thousands of miles away. They got us settled in and thus began a whirlwind of experiences and new knowledge.
The first week was so full of new and wonderful experiences that it is difficult to pick which was more profound. The first sight of the British Museum humbled me. The images had not done it justice. The Director Dr Hatwig Fischer welcomed us personally and put a lot of things into perspective which was an honour. Of course the presentations by everyone who took time off their work to talk to us were fantastic. As were the AOA department who stopped working to have lunch with us and welcome us to the British Museum.
All the presentations have been pertinent to my practice. All the different departments who contribute to the making of exhibitions a success have been wonderful about showing us what they do and being patient with us. As has Dr Chris Spring who is helping me with the exhibition proposal. All the presentations touched on some fundamental aspect of my practice. Of note of course is Tim Clark’s presentation on Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave which has really changed the way I view exhibition making and the explanation on practicalities has given me a lot to think about. As did John Williams’ presentation which looked at photography in a fresh way.
My colleagues have been friendly and wonderful. That we all come from different countries and cultures has not been a hindrance at all. I have quickly made friends and Hafni, Beimote and Matsosane have been regular partners in crime. Colleagues have been helpful in ensuring that we all get the maximum benefits from this programme.
I have especially enjoyed the tour of the galleries and I still haven’t gone through all the galleries! I have been moved beyond words by how the Africa gallery is set up. I love the mix of the contemporary and the old to produce a different kind of narrative. And right there in the Wellcome Gallery I got to meet Dum Dum (Moai the Easter Island Head) whom I had only seen in the movies. I still cannot help but pass by him whenever I get the chance.
I enjoyed the visit to Blythe House where we got to see textiles up close and learn how to properly handle them. I especially liked taking a turn with the 3D scanner under the watchful eye of Claudia Zehrt, which made me appreciate the kind of work that goes into a project like the Google Maya project. We all took turns with the 3D scanner and of course Raneen scanned my leg!
The time in the Scientific Research and Conservation departments made me appreciate the work and resources of the British Museum in ensuring that the Heritage is preserved for future generations. I especially enjoyed the tours through the laboratories. The x-ray machine is not calibrated to work on living organisms else we would have asked to take a turn! The time we spent there with the sessions with Adrian Doyle, Karen Birkhoelzer, Duygu Camurcuoglu, Sophie Rowe, Carl Heron, Caroline Cartwright and Quanyu Wang and the tours with Emma Webb and Tony with a demonstration from Pamela Murray have made me aware of what I really should also focus on in looking at the acquisition of an object. I think I might want to spend some time in this department.
Whilst I have done a bit of exploring with just a few friends and on my own, it has been the group excursions that we have gone on that have been most enjoyable. The boat ride to Kew Gardens on the river Thames (where we got lost trying to find the treetop walkway and the Pagoda(which was sadly under restoration) and the visit to the Shard (the tallest building in the United Kingdom) all were awesome excursions. The Hive at Kew Gardens proved to be more than I had expected.
I have a lot to learn from my peers and the British Museum and cannot wait to see what more is in store for us.