Artists & Projects Directory
Portrait: noun 1. a verbal picture or description usually of a person; 2. a likeness of a person especially of the face, as a painting, drawing, photograph or dance!
Father: noun a male parent who has raised a child or supplied the sperm through sexual intercourse or sperm bank.
God the father: noun a title given to god in religions such as Christianity and Judaism (in part because he is viewed as having active interest in human affairs in the way a father would take interest in his children who are dependent on him).
My father, Webster Barnabas Chipaumire, was born in 1938 and died in 1980. I had no contact or connection with him or his family from the age of five. It has taken me almost 45 years to engage with the idea of a father and what his role in a family could be. In April 2014, I returned to my father' village in search of a way to begin to draw this portrait. I cannot say exactly what has spurred this curiosity in my father, but suffice it to say that the "trip" has been challenging. Perhaps it is a curiosity borne out of absence. Perhaps it is a curiosity borne out of compassion for the black male. Is the black male a victim of history? A victim of culture? Could the black male African body be a way to comprehend traditions, colonialism, Christianity, liberation struggles, the impact of these ideas on the African family? Is the sacrifice of object/body of the black male necessary for civilization’s god, the advancement god, the global capital god? Is the sacrifice as Stravinsky/Nijinsky suggest in their monumental work of a human being limited to primitive societies? I propose that in africa the sacrificial offering has been the black African male, and not the young female virgin. In portrait of myself as my father, I offer a reading of the ritual of spring as the slaughter of African maleness to feed and regenerate the capitalist god.
portrait... is less about my personal relationship, or lack thereof, with Webster Barnabas chipaumire. It is a portrait of a man, who is nothing but a man of his time. I have given him boxing gloves so that he has a fighting chance. I have put him in a boxing ring to do battle with himself, his shadow, his ancestors, the industrial gods and that merciless tyrant: progress. To be a black male may be challenging in the twenty first century. To be a black, African father maybe unattainable.
nora chipaumire, 2014