Chicago Dzviti photograph collection

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Chicago Dzviti photograph collection
Creator: Dzviti, Chicago
Call Number: D.537
Dates: circa 1991-1995
Physical Description: 5 Cubic feet
Language(s): Materials are in English
Repository: Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester

Table of Contents:

Biographical/Historical Note
Scope and Content
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Collection Overview
Title: Chicago Dzviti photograph collection
Creator: Dzviti, Chicago
Call Number: D.537
Dates: circa 1991-1995
Physical Description: 5 Cubic feet
Language(s): Materials are in English
Repository: Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester

Biographical/Historical Note
The following biographical information on Chicago Dzviti is excerpted from Dandemutande Magazine, with the permission of author Richard Selman:

Photographer, artist, journalist, father, and husband Chicago Taona Dzviti was born 17 September, 1961 in Shamva located in a rural area of northern Zimbabwe. He died Friday, 2 September 1995 at his home in Glen Norah, a suburb of Harare, following his release from the hospital.

As an artist and photographer, Chicago Dzviti's vision was inspired by the beauty and culture of Zimbabwe. Chicago grew up in rural Zimbabwe with limited access to photographic resources and technical training. He succeeded as an artist through innovation, persistence, and encouragement from his family.

After studying photo and printing technology at Harare Polytechnic beginning in 1987, he went on to complete his courses and received a National Foundation Certificate. He received further training while working as an originator for Modus Publications and Southern Africa Printing and Publishing House. In 1988 Chicago began a career as a freelance photojournalist. His work was published in several southern African-based periodicals including: Southern African Political & Economic Monthly, World Vision News, and Horizon. His article "Thomas Gora Wadharwa" was featured in the fifth issue of the Zimbabwean music zine Dandemutande in November, 1994. In December of 1994 he spent two weeks in Brussels, Belgium working in residence as a photographer for the newspaper De Morgen, sponsored by a Belgian arts organization that selected 30 artists of varying disciplines from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Other exhibitions in Harare include Women and Children in Rural Areas of Zimbabwe at the British Council Gallery, July, 1994, and Going Home at the John Boyne Gallery, September 1994. Going Home, a photo documentary of the repatriation of Mozambican refugees, was in collaboration with Chicago's good friend, photographer Calvin Dondo.

In the early 1990s, Chicago worked with Kunzwana Trust, a Zimbabwean organization dedicated to promoting the performance arts of Zimbabwe, on a project documenting musicians, musical instruments, and instrument makers. His portraits and biographies of musicians and instrument makers were a major component of the exhibition Spirit Talk Mbira: Traditional Musical Instruments of Zimbabwe that opened February 2, 1995 at the Barn Gallery on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University at Murfreesboro. In preparation for his work on Spirit Talk, Chicago traveled throughout Zimbabwe collecting instruments and interviewing and photographing musicians and instrument makers who contributed work to the exhibit.

In conjunction with the Spirit Talk exhibit, Chicago came to the United States at the end of January 1995 with musician/mbira maker Chris Mhlanga, musician Chartwell Dutiro, and Canadian writer/musician Kristyan Robinson through sponsorship of the Art Department, School of Photography, and the Multi-Cultural Committee at MTSU. Based in Nashville, Tennessee during February, Chicago Dzviti, accompanied by Dutiro, Mhlanga, Robinson, and Richard Selman traveled throughout Tennessee on a workshop, lecture, and performance tour of universities, community centers, and performance halls arranged through the Spirit Talk exhibition committee. As a contributor to the events of the tour, Chicago presented lectures witnessing the spirit of Zimbabwe as seen through the lens of his faithful Yashika camera.

Chicago worked from late February into March printing photos for two additional solo exhibitions opening in April of 95: at Masika Gallery in Seattle and Pamberi Studios in Hollywood, Florida.

Several of Dzviti's images of traditional musicians appear in Bart Hopkin and Richard Selman's book Making Lamellophones (Experimental Musical Instruments, 2016). One image of the popular musician Thomas Mapfumo appears in Ron Sakolsky and Fred Wei-Han Ho's edited volume Sounding Off!: Music as Subversion/Resistence/Revolution (Autonomedia 1995). Dzviti's photographs are also included in Dede Esi Amanor-Wilks's book In Search of Hope for Zimbabwe's Farmworkers (Panos, 1995).

Scope and Content
The Chicago Dzviti photographic collection includes photographs taken in the early 1990s by Chicago Dzviti in Zimbabwe, the United States, and Europe. The collection includes negatives, contact sheet, prints, color slides, and related print materials. The earliest known date for an image in this collection is October 4, 1991, and the latest photographs in the collection were taken shortly before Chicago Dzviti's death in 1995.

The largest part of the collection is made up of negatives. This includes one hundred and fifty five separate rolls of film, although many of these rolls are partial. The vast majority of negatives are black and white. In addition, the collection includes approximately one hundred and forty prints. The majority of prints are also black and white, and were printed by Chicago Dzviti in a home darkroom in Zimbabwe. The collection also includes around two hundred and seventy color slides. Many of the original housings for the negatives have been preserved as part of the collection, which also includes a small number of black and white contact sheets, a few biographies of Zimbabwean musicians written by Chicago Dzviti, and a small number of Flemish-language articles featuring Chicago Dzviti's work originally published in the Belgian newspaper De Morgen in December 1994. Apart from the Zimbabwean National Archive, these materials comprise one of the most extensive archival collections of photographs of Zimbabwe, and one of the few collections focused on the work of a Zimbabwean photographer.

Working as a photojournalist, Chicago Dzviti captured a wide-ranging record of Zimbabwean life during the early 1990s. During a relatively short period of years, Chicago Dzviti's photographs documented an era in which the ambitious social welfare programs implemented after independence were increasingly abandoned in favor of a World Bank Economic Structural Adjustment Program. In the context of these social changes, Dzviti's photographs pay special attention to issues of work, production, and labor, documenting a range of activities that include peasant agriculture, artisan craft production, domestic tasks, commercial agriculture, and urban labor movements. Related themes, including gender, poverty, displacement, and access to resources, are also prominent throughout his oeuvre. In terms of subject matter, the Chicago Dzviti collection encompasses six series: Zimbabwean Musical Life; Rural Life; Repatriation of Mozambican Refugees; Commercial Farmworkers; Urban and Miscellaneous; and Dzviti's Travels in Europe and the US. Across all of these series, Chicago Dzviti's subjects are clearly aware they are being photographed, and are often looking directly at camera. Yet, the photographs do not appear posed. Instead, they depict people in the midst of their everyday activities and environments.

Series I: Zimbabwe Musical Life

This collection offers a particularly impressive visual record of Zimbabwean musical life. Through his work with Kunzwana, Chicago Dzviti took an extensive series of photographs depicting musicians, including performers and instrument makers of several different types of Zimbabwean mbira. Among them are the njari, matepe, munyonga, and mbira dzavadzimu.

The mbira dzavadzimu, or "mbira of the ancestral spirits," is a particularly iconic Zimbabwean instrument. Originally, its performance context is in ritual events held for families and communities to communicate with their ancestral spirits through living mediums. Many of the mbira dzavadzimu's most notable 20th century performers, including Ephat and Fradreck Mujuru, Thomas Wadharwa Gora, Tute and Irene Chigamba, and Chris Mhlanga appear in Chicago Dzviti's photographs. Since the 1960s and 70s, the mbira has also become prominent in Zimbabwean popular music, most notably in the mbira-guitar style pioneered by artists such as Thomas Mapfumo and Jonah Sithole, both of whom are featured in this collection.

Chicago Dzviti often devoted an entire role of film to a single performer, capturing various angles, poses, and backgrounds. His photographs range from portraits of individual players, makers, and ensembles to depictions of recording sessions, live performances, and informal performance settings. Chicago Dzviti frequently chose to depict mbira players and instrument makers with their wives, children, and other family members. These include photographs of mbira musicians in which family members appear casually in the background, as well as portraits in which musicians appear together with members of their families.

In addition to featuring mbira players and makers, Chicago Dzviti's photographs also depict people playing various other Zimbabwean instruments. These include the chipendani mouthbow, the kavembe and hosho percussive shakers, acoustic and electric guitars, marimbas, and a variety of drums. In some cases, his photographs depict homemade instruments, including guitars and drum sets. Performance contexts include music festivals, ritual events, street musicians, and casual informal settings, such as musicians playing both mbira and guitar while seated in cars. Chicago Dzviti's photographs also include images of many Zimbabwean popular musicians. Many of the artists he documented, both popular and traditional, are featured performing during Zimbabwe Musicians' Day.

Series II: Rural Life

In Chicago Dzviti's oeuvre, images of rural life mirror those of Zimbabwean musical life in their importance. These images include many individual and group portraits of men, women, and children. Within these different groups, subjects are depicted doing ordinary activities appropriate to their particular gender and/or age. Children, for example, are featured attending school, herding cattle, using slingshots, snacking, listening to the radio, caring for younger siblings, and playing mahumbwe, a traditional role-playing game similar to house. Men, on the other hand, are featured repairing nets, cobbling shoes, fixing bicycles, and in the gumboots typical worn by miners. Women are often depicted in kitchens or domestic yards, and are frequently engaged in activities related to the processing of food, such as winnowing, sifting, grinding, and cooking. They are also often depicted alongside their children. In most cases, Chicago Dzviti's rural images featured unidentified locations. A few roles of film, however, are identified as having been taken in Dzviti's home district of Shamva, and in the neighboring Pfungwe region.

While Dzviti's photographs depict many different kinds of labor, the work of fetching water is a particularly prominent theme in this work, and is especially salient in this series on rural life. Men, women, and children are all depicted participating in the work of water collection and transportation. Women and children are often featured balancing containers of water on their heads in the process of transporting them from water collection points to domestic households. Men, women, and children are often featured together at boreholes, which appear in Chicago Dzviti's images as a site where both physical labor and social interactions extend across boundaries of gender.

Series III: Repatriation of Mozambican Refugees

In the 1980s, South Africa's Apartheid government sought to destabilize the Mozambian state by sponsoring a militant, insurgent nationalist movement known as the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (Mozambican National Resistance), or RENAMO. The situation soon escalated into a civil war, leaving millions of Mozambicans displaced by the early 1990s. Among them were hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans who fled to Zimbabwe, where many of they were placed in refugee camps. As the civil war drew to a close in 1993, the Zimbabwean government announced plans to repatriate nearly 150,000 refugees in what was then the largest single operation ever to have been conducted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Africa. This voluntary repatriation of Mozambican refugees continued throughout 1994 and 1995, and Zimbabwe's last group of Mozambican refugees returned to their home country in May, 1995.

Chicago Dzviti's photographs depict the voluntary repatriation of Mozambican refugees from several different refugee camps. In many of the images in this series, refugees are depicted in front of tents in the camps where they were housed, transporting and loading their belongings onto bus, and seated on buses awaiting their departure. Additional images that may depict refugees are also grouped with this series, and depict scenes such as children lined up in assembly, and groups of women cooking. Often, small details such as orange plastic fencing or mismatched school uniforms are key features suggesting images that may be likely to depict refugees.

Series IV: Commercial Farmworkers

This series includes over a dozen rolls of film taken in the last year of Chicago Dzviti's life as he embarked on a new project documenting the lives of Zimbabwe's commercial farmworkers. Dzviti apparently did not have the chance to print many of these images. However, a few of Dzviti's images appear in Dede Esi Amanor-Wilks's book In Search of Hope for Zimbabwe's Farmworkers (Panos, 1995).

Series V: Urban and Miscellaneous

This series depicts urban scenes from a wide range of subjects, ranging from photographs of Chicago Dzviti's own family to urban workers' events, images of political figures, and photographs of street children. There are also some miscellaneous images, such as portraits of individuals that do not obviously fit into any of the other series.

Series VI: Dzviti's Travels in Europe and the US

This series documents Dzviti's travels to Europe and North America. It includes both his own photographs and photographs of him taken by other individuals such as Richard Selman. Within this series, several rolls of film document the Spirit Talk exhibition at Middle Tennessee State University and related performance events.

Negatives (photographs)
Dzviti, Chicago
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Acquired from Lorraine Chitungo through the generosity of the School of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, 2017.Access
The Chicago Dzviti photograph collection is open for research use. Researchers are advised to contact Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation prior to visiting. Upon arrival, researchers will also be asked to fill out a registration form and provide photo identification.Use
Reproductions are made upon request but can be subject to restrictions. Permission to publish materials from the collection must currently be requested. Please note that some materials may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the researcher's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information contact rarebks@library.rochester.eduCitation
[Item title, item date], Chicago Dzviti photograph collection, D.537, Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester
Administrative Information
Author: Jennifer Kyker
Publisher: Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester
Rush Rhees Library
Second Floor, Room 225
Rochester, NY 14627-0055

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