Art News Africa

ANA Spotlight: Wycliffe Mundopa

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Installation of ‘For these Sins,’ 2020 – Image courtesy of Artsy

Wycliffe Mundopa (b. 1987, Rusape, Zimbabwe) is a visual artist who lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe. His works are known to create awareness on the lives of women and children in Harare’s underprivileged neighborhoods using his art style. Mundopa primarily uses oil paint to create colourful, figurative depictions of the often painful, but vibrant lives of Zimbabweans. His works examines the tensions of tradition and change in modern society, the effects of economic hardship on women, and the difficulties that have a detrimental impact on childhood development. He explores both the beautiful and dark sides of his community through the lens of mothers, prostitutes, caregivers, and breadwinners, potraying them without bias through his expert drafting and creative collage work. Mundopa’s works speak out about individuals who are all too frequently ignored by society.

Mundopa studied at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Visual Arts Studios and has exhibited in London, New York, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Paris, Berlin, and beyond. He received a National Certificate in Fine Art from the National Gallery of Visual Arts Studios, Harare, in 2007. The artist has had solo exhibitions at Southern Guild, Cape Town, South Africa; Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa; Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London; Out of Africa Gallery, Barcelona, Spain; and First Floor Gallery, Harare, Zimbabwe. Mundopa has also had work in group exhibitions at GNYP Gallery, Berlin; Alon Segev Gallery,Tel Aviv; Ever Gold Projects, San Francisco; PS Art Space, Fremantle, Australia; and Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, New York, among many other spaces. He was the 2021 winner of the FNB Art Prize and his work is held in numerous international collections, including the Ilana Goor Museum, the Right at the Equator project,the Museum of Modern Art of Equatorial Guinea, and the Lluís Coromina Foundation.

WYCLIFFE MUNDOPA, Afternoon Delight Part 1, 2022, Oil on canvas, 150 x 110 cm – Image courtesy of Southern Guild

Latest Exhibition

Titled, Pachipamwe (We Meet Again), this exhibition of large-scale canvases bears visceral witness to the complex lives of Zimbabwe’s women and children. The collection will be on view at the Southern Guild from 8 February to 20 April 2023.

For more than 15 years, Mundopa has used his position as an artist to give the invisible and unheard a voice and exposure. The artist’s artwork is a reaction to life as he sees and feels it. Each of his huge pieces canonizes the tales of Harare’s ladies, soaked in their carnivalesque color and bursting with passionate gesture. Mundopa’s paintings give the everyday events of his people historical significance because they are grounded in his belief in the strength of truth-seeking and the drama and beauty of the ordinary.

WYCLIFFE MUNDOPA, Blind Wisdom Part 2, 2020, Oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm – Image courtesy of Southern Guild

Invoking the Old Dutch Masters’ legacy, Mundopa paints a multifaceted portrait of his native women. These bold characters—breadwinners, sex workers, moms, and muses—renounce historically limiting norms of portrayal. In spite of socioeconomic conditions that don’t always support a life of power, his ladies are vibrant, seductive, joyful, and strong. This portrayal’s depth implores us to acknowledge the suffering and vitality in these women’s lives.

Lurid hues, vibrant pattern, rich allegory and animal symbolism have come to define a potent visual language for the artist. The allegorical mingles with the mundane as a vividly spotted hyena is carried to the local market, fruit-sellers sit streetside in striped stockings and circus garb, a woman’s face bears the distinct snout of a pig. These symbols are visualisations of vernacular expressions. Encoded within each metaphor is commentary referring to the country’s broader societal fabric, and its fluctuating moral codes. The crowding of each of the rendered street scenes creates a shifting sense of perspective as multiple focal points fiercely compete for the eye’s attention. The viewer is initially seduced and overwhelmed by the sumptuous pageantry of the work, but a closer viewing challenges us to engage with the harsher realities that Mundopa’s world is built upon. This witnessing stands beyond literal documentation; the artist mythologises the everyday with both violence and empathy.

WYCLIFFE MUNDOPA, Flesh-Pots Part 2, 2022, Oil, fabric collage, spray paint on canvas, 210 x 298.5 cm – Image courtesy of Southern Guild

The personal is always political in Mundopa’s eyes. Living during the Zimbabwean socio-economic and political turmoil, the painter has had his fair share of tough decisions. At a time when other artists were choosing to leave the country to pursue opportunities abroad in the early 2000s, following a protracted and destructive era of hyperinflation, he made the decision to stay. The choice carried the weight of self-sacrifice and a life-affirming sense of accountability. Today, Mundopa is regarded as one of Zimbabwe’s best-known and most popular modern artists.


Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine is a budding storyteller. Her academic credentials include a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Benin. She has contributed to numerous Art publications across Africa. She is currently a Writer for Art News Africa.

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