(Last Updated on April 8, 2022 by zimdaily)
BULAWAYO – After the realisation that African supernatural stories are less spoken about in social spheres, visual artist, Ishmael Singo recently launched a scary, but insightful art series of Magoritoto/ghosts, which is aimed at encouraging indigenous people to face their fears and fight negative resolutions such as suicide. An exhibition that kicked off last Friday took art lovers on a scary ride as they explored artwork showing flashes of what people see and experience at night.
Laxon Magandiwa, who is Singo’s uncle, said he grew up hearing stories about the supernatural world and at some point, had a personal experience.
“We grew up hearing stories about the existence of these things. Most believe that they’re just fairy tales, but I personally came across these once in my lifetime. One of the years, I visited my in-laws in Mupandawana, Gutu in Masvingo province. I travelled by bus and arrived late at around 10pm.
The bus stop was about 30kms away from the homestead. There was another man who was going the same direction so we joined each other. 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 reached up, it broke into small fires that then fell down,” said Magandiwa.
He said a small area where it had fallen was then covered with small fires.
“I always share this experience with my kids. As much as we cannot really know what these are, supernatural beings do exist and that’s all we should keep in mind,’ said Magandiwa who also played a part in the production of the paintings.
During the launch, the crowd was given a scary experience where they had to get inside a booth, a small plastic room characterised by less light and scary paintings. When one was inside the booth, voices of those outside sounded-like ghostly scary noises.
Singo said the series was a new path that he wanted to take as a way of exposing the vast African supernatural beliefs as well as encouraging people to face their personal ghosts and shun ill societal practices such as suicide.
“Starting this series was an opportunity for me to move away from my comfort zone of painting ordinary and common things. I started it during the strict Covid-19 lockdowns and I gathered the information through asking around, especially the elderly people,” he said.
Singo said when the elderly told him their stories, he’d picture the things they’d be saying and that’s where he got the inspiration.
He admitted that the stories remain a myth to him because he has never come across anything close to what he has been told.
“They’re our own stories as African societies. Countries in Europe tell their own stories of zombies, vampires and go to the extent of making movies. The stories also remain a myth,” said Singo.
He said his art series is just a way of telling the Africans’ own scary stories and helping each other to face our fears.
Singo said local people have a lot of experiences with ghosts but there is not much said about it.
“We’ve heard so many stories such as those of Jane the Ghost, Thula Bhetshulude and many kinds of stories. These paintings are an insight of what people go through and through them, I’m seeking to encourage people to face their demons head on and engage them to talk about things that they are scared of.
There’re a lot of things that are disturbing us on personal levels and you find people taking their own lives just because they fail to face their problems and things that would be haunting them. It’s when you let it out that you get people to hear you out and even help you,” he said.
The Australian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bronte Moules who was part of the exhibition shared her own experiences.
“The booth is very spooky but the paintings carry a message that we have to face our own ghosts in life because each and every one of us has their own things that are haunting them and we’re always scared to face them,” she said.