Kudzanai Chiurai: Iyeza
In his theatrical multimedia compositions, Zimbabwean-born artist Kudzanai Chiurai investigates some of the most pertinent—and stereotyped—issues facing the African continent today, from government corruption to xenophobia and displacement. In his 11-minute video Iyeza (2012), Chiurai reinterprets Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, replacing the painting’s subjects with contemporary African identities: the apostles include a medicine man, an AK-47-wielding rebel fighter, and two cowering and awed women clad in Dutch-wax dresses; Christ becomes an androgynous figure in a sharply tailored dark suit. Against an overtly romanticized backdrop with strong religious and social undertones, the actors move in painfully slow motion to a rhythmic soundtrack that punctuates their caustic actions.
Support for Kudzanai Chiurai: Iyeza is provided in part by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
This film is the first in a trilogy of videos by Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai (b. 1981). Iyeza (presented here), Creation (2012), and Moyo (2013) consider and confront how Christianity has been used to support and expand European colonialism in Africa over the last three centuries. The videos lend a dramatic and dynamic edge to Chiurai’s larger project of critically investigating how African cultures, politics, conflicts, and histories are processed and depicted by both Western and African media sources.
Iyeza uses Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Last Supper as a compositional and historical framing device, replacing the disciples with contemporary African figures who move in hypnotic and almost painful slow-motion as a rhythmic soundtrack plays. By engaging references to recent politics, religious history and iconography, and Western art history with motion and theatrical staging, Chiurai choreographs an inflated, condensed moment into a dynamic, near-still-life epic. The scene additionally references a 1997 charity dinner hosted by South African president Nelson Mandela and attended by Liberian president and notorious warlord Charles Taylor and various European and American celebrities. Chiurai instills a caustic tension between his historical and contemporary references, encouraging a distinct hyper-focus as he challenges the viewer’s desire both to draw conclusions and to see them fulfilled.
Kudzanai Chiurai (Zimbabwean, b. 1981) works in photography, video, film, and installation in Johannesburg, South Africa, investigating the political, social, and economic strife in Zimbabwe and the African continent, and how those facets are conveyed by various global media outlets. His work has been shown at venues including dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany; Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah; Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; and Museum of Modern Art, New York.