“You don’t need a university degree to make a living” - Fortune Chasi speaks on creativity, law, politics and AI


Patrick Makumbe may probably strike many as a reclusive individual who does not invest much in the art of talking and public speeches. Yet, his impressively glorious artwork speaks volumes as regards the mastery of perfection he delicately infuses in his paintings. His paintings have earned him local and international renown, and they are a testament of the realistic and exquisite artistry he possesses.

Patrick Makumbe first floor gallery art exhibition and fortune Chasi interview with zimsphere
Patrick Makumbe with family; and with Fortune Chasi at First Floor Gallery in Harare. PIC - Fortune Chasi/X (Twitter)

Makumbe’s impeccable art talent speaks for itself. His realism transcends the bounds of conventional creativity. It poignantly and graphically illustrates the everyday lives of everyday people not only in Zimbabwe but on a global scale.

The precision in details that Makumbe prides himself in is breathtaking and enchanting. One can only genuinely appreciate Patrick Makumbe’s art paintings with all their heart and strive to share his name with everyone else.

On Sunday 20 August, 2023, Patrick Makumbe’s Kuva Ziso art exhibition at the First Floor Gallery in Harare was by all accounts a magnificently beautiful sight and occasion.

Makumbe’s latest paintings were up for exhibition at the First Floor Gallery; and various art enthusiasts and stakeholders from different dimensions in society attended this blissful event to witness Makumbe’s incredibly captivating paintings.

Patrick Makumbe’s story-telling abilities through visual art paintings accurately portrays the everyday material and ethereal lived realities of the world around him—Zimbabweans. He paints the authentic lives of Zimbabwean people.

Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza had a terse conversation with Fortune Chasi, a prominent Zimbabwean legal practitioner and former government minister (who is well-known for his unwavering passion and commitment towards the arts), about the event and art in Zimbabwe at large..

Fortune Chasi, with palpable enthusiasm, stated that it was an honour for Zimbabwean citizens to gather at such a great [art exhibition] event to see the fantastic work by Patrick Makumbe, a talented artist.

Speaking about the state of Zimbabwe’s arts and cultural scene, Chasi underscored the fact that perhaps we are not doing enough to properly celebrate and support our talented artists in Zimbabwe. He said that Zimbabwean artists need more publicity so that they are known.

“I am delighted and extremely honoured to have to come to see Patrick Makumbe’s works. I have learnt a lot.

“I am a firm believer that we’re probably not doing as much as we should be doing to support our artists, and as you heard the speaker who spoke [from First Floor Gallery], our artists are more recognised outside Zimbabwe than in Zimbabwe. So we need to do more of these galleries so that people get to know about great artists such as Patrick.

“We also need to open this avenue for young people so that they understand that going to university is not the only way to make a living. I have been told that the pieces from some of our artists are going for big amounts outside Zimbabwe, and sometimes the artists who come from [low-income urban areas] like Patrick are making much more money than advocates, with their multiple degrees.

“We need more publicity for our artists … we also need to inculcate a culture of appreciation.”

Chasi said that Patrick Makumbe’s story-telling reflects the accurate stories of Zimbabweans, underpinning Makumbe’s background as an artist from the city’s subaltern areas.

Patrick Makumbe Zimbabwe painter First Floor Gallery
Fortune Chasi says of the all the paintings by Patrick Makumbe that were exhibited, this is his favourite. PIC - Fortune Chasi/X (Twitter)

As concerns the issue of artists and their relation with the law such as Intellectual Property, Chasi said that most artists are unaware that there are legal provisions that can protect their works.

“Most of our artists are not legally aware that they can legally protect their works. And the risk that exists is that their pieces of art can be replicated outside of Zimbabwe, especially in this day and age of technology such as Artificial Intelligence.

“It can be reproduced in countries which they [Zimbabwean artists] can never reach and so they need to take advantage of technology and Intellectual Property, but we must have a system that trains them.

“When youngsters are being trained to draw, they also need to be trained how to protect their works otherwise they will work for people outside Zimbabwe not bothered about them. This is a source of living for them and they need to protect it very jealously.”

With regards to the modern phenomenon in vogue of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate new art, Fortune Chasi remarked that this inevitably raises critical ethical issues that should not be glossed over. He asserts that AI is based on “stealing” or “theft”—copying another artist’s work without their consent.

AI generates new art by combining and synthesizing art previously created by other artists that is dotted all over the web/internet. Chasi highlighted that despite the issue of theft being the “major problem” with AI, the technology can be usefully used, through pertinent modification, to reflect a message that was not intended by the artist and which may be “immoral” in the country of origin.

On speaking about what the Ministry of Arts can do to improve the arts in Zimbabwe, Chasi said the government should take the “necessary steps to promote growth in the industry by making sure that artists get the necessary raw materials to do their work,” such as paint, canvas.

He also said the government should help artists use relevant technologies to do their work. He highlighted that the government should invest in artists so that the latter export their works; thereby enhancing cultural exchange initiatives on a global scale.

According to Chasi, art is just a resource like minerals and agricultural products, and the necessary financial and material support as well as in intellectual terms should be generously poured towards artists by the relevant ministries.

Fortune Chasi spoke on the ineluctable nexus between arts and politics; that the intersection between arts and politics is an avenue of communication on sociopolitical issues.

“When Patrick Makumbe sits down to draw, he is communicating, and a person seeing a piece of art can choose their own interpretation. Part of the interpretation that is possible is a political interpretation—[Makumbe] can communicate a political message through his pieces of art.

“He is entitled to do that, and he is protected by the Constitution to be able to speak through the canvas and the paint. There is that freedom of speech he is exercising through painting.”

Chasi said that the same is applicable to artists in other disciplines of creativity such as musicians and writers. According to him, it is just the medium that differs; but the outcome is the same.

(Interview brought courtesy of Put Me On: A ZimSphere Podcast)

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