[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="560" caption="Painting by Owen Maseko, from a Bulawayo exhibition that opened last night"][/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="197" caption="Owen Maseko"][/caption]
Owen Maseko the world famous Zimbabwean artist has been arrested. His crime? He dared to be bold. Maseko opened his exhibition last night at the Bulawayo National Art Gallery, an artist’s impression of the harsh reality of Gukurahundi as well as the decades of oppression and violence that have characterised Zimbabwe. In a combination of graffiti, 3D installations and his painting Maseko unflinchingly dared to tell the truth, adding his usual and whimsical element of humour. Visit his website here.
Voti Thebe, the person in charge of the Bulawayo National Arts Gallery, was also arrested.
Stand up for the freedom of expression in Zimbabwe and help free Maseko. He is being held at Bulawayo Central Police Station, charges have not been made, but they are refusing to release him. Because he has been arrested on a Friday, Maseko is likely to spend the whole weekend in one of Zimbabwe's filthy cells.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="560" caption="Passers-by crane their necks to see the artwork on display"][/caption]
On paper, Zimbabwe's constitution protects freedom of expression but in practice, when it comes to expressing criticism of Zanu PF atrocities, the police have ignored this.
The current constitution says:
"no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, and freedom from interference with his correspondence"
This link to our constitution resource shows that even Zanu PF's preferred version for a new constitution in the future - the Kariba Draft - supports rights to freedom of expression. Specifically, it preserves the
- freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and information regardless of frontiers;
- freedom of the press and other media of communication;
- freedom of artistic creativity;
Maseko's arrest today begs the question: can Zimbabweans really ever believe that Zanu PF will protect and honour individual rights?
Maseko has shown courage in speaking the truth that we all know. Stand by him and demand his immediate release.
Please call the police and ask that Owen Maseko and Voti Thebe are released immediately. Point out to them that both the current constitution, and the Kariba Draft, protect an individuals right to free expression. Remind them that their role is to follow the rule of the law; ask them what grounds they have for arresting Maseko and Thebi.
Please be calm and polite when talking to the police. Ask the person you are speaking to to carry a message to Maseko - ask him/her to tell him the world is watching and standing by them.
Please join our Facebook group. We will be uploading images of some of the artwork that the police and Mugabe do not want the world to see to both Facebook and Flickr. Please share these images widely with everyone you know. Please ask them to support Maseko's freedom, just as he supports ours.
These are the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) telephone numbers to call in Bulawayo.
+263 (9) 72515
Central charge office hotlines:
+263 (9) 72525
+263 (9) 66306
+263 (9) 66340
ZRP press and public relations:
+263 (9) 60358