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Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Showcases Radio's Societal Role

Radios -- all shapes and sizes -- are the focus of the latest exhibition at the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo. The showcase combines various art forms to depict the role played by radio in society.

The exhibition opened in early May, and has generated keen interest among residents as well as state security agents. Voice of America Zimbabwe Service reporter Netsai Mlilo has the story.

Director of the National Art Gallery, Adelis Sibuta, says the exhibition aims to provide artists with a platform to express the role of radios in communication.

The showcase, which runs until the end of July, features wood, metal and stone sculptures as well as photographs, antique radios, and other items. Many of the historic items were loaned to the gallery by Bulawayo residents. French photographer, Eric Goss, took photographs of the sets.

Sibuta says she hopes the exhibit will help lift the mood of many residents who feel continuously downcast because of economic hardships, "We want to use this exhibition to restore hope and to celebrate our culture. We want the artists to show the public how they are surviving under these very challenging times because it's not easy for artists to produce works of art."

Sibuta adds that she hopes people will take time to ponder how radios have shaped their lives: "As people listen to radio they form opinions about what's happening around them. And, it is these opinions that shape their destiny so most of the time they reflect on their own, after switching off the radio. Perhaps they think about what they have heard, this is where they discern the truth from lies, or this is where they discern realities from dreams."

Danisile Ncube is one of the artists whose creations are on display. The sculptor of metal says preparing for the show was thought-provoking in itself.

Ncube has 4 pieces featured on display, including "Freedom Radio". The artist says while creating his pieces, he began to realize how existing broadcast laws are infringing on people's freedom to listen to what they want, "Everybody talks in the radio thinking of freedom, they are free to express themselves through the radio but in the case of this installation, I was talking about the freedom to other radio stations being given this right or freedom to express themselves or maybe broadcast to other people and creating radio stations within one's country."

He adds his favorite piece in the show is titled Broadcasting Act. The sculpture comprises an old radio strapped into a metal box with chains and barbed wire.

It's not just artists and art enthusiasts who're interested in the exhibition. State security agents are reportedly keeping a close eye on both the exhibition and the artists.

Several artists say they've been questioned about their works by officers from the Central Intelligence Organization. One artist, who declined to be named, said he was repeatedly asked to outline the message he's trying to portray via his creations.

"Thatha Radio; noise in silence" is the 4th exhibition the National Art Gallery is mounting under its "Thatha" series. Previous exhibitions included focusing on cameras, bicycles and hairstyles.