Tree Flowers (1945), painting by William Nyati, Zimbabwean Modern Art, part of The Stars are Bright a free art exhibition in Shoreditch

The Stars are Bright: Zimbabwe through the eyes of its young painters from Cyrene (1940-1947) invites you to discover the extraordinary artwork of students at the Cyrene Mission School, a boys' school near Bulawayo in colonial Zimbabwe (then known as Southern Rhodesia). All the paintings, drawings and sculptures in this exhibition were created by more than 40 artists over a seven-year period, many of whom went on to have important careers at home and abroad. These artists were boys and young men, and their paintings are a product of their imagination as well as factual events and scenes. The depictions of history, folklore, education and nature provide an insight into key moments of the country’s history and culture. Walking through this gallery we encourage you to use your imagination to develop your own interpretations of the meanings and motivations behind these paintings. Explore life, the natural world, spirituality and a changing nation, guided by Zimbabwe’s bright young stars.

A note from the co-curators

When we began organising The Stars are Bright, which takes its title from a work in the exhibition by Musa Nyahwa dated 1945, we could never have imagined just how much the world would change around us. It is a critical time to share the work of Black artists past and present. We have attempted to present this exhibition in a way that is accessible and that encourages viewers to let their imagination take inspiration from the environment in which the artworks were made. We must remember that there is no single story of African Art and the Cyrene paintings reinforce this view. There is more research to be conducted into this body of work and the hundreds of artists who produced it, many of whom have been lost to history. After this exhibition, the artworks will tour Zimbabwe to be shown there for the first time since the 1940s, marking what we hope will be a fitting reunion with their natural setting.

The stars of the exhibition

Tommy Augustine | John Balopi | Shadrack C. | Eliswell Chandigere | Crispin Chawira | M. Chiangwa | Barnabus Chiponza | Timothy Dhlodhlo | Lot Dungene | Simon Hlabate | Moses Johuma | George Kachange | Caxton Kandiero | William Kumalo | John Mabena | S. Makala | Samuel Manaisi | Josiah Maposa | Lever Matiwaza | Samuel Matowa | Basil Mazibuko | Ananias Mjuru | Adomech Moyo | Mhletshwa Msidazi | Christopher Msindazi | Sonny Msutu | Kenneth Munjoro | Timothy Ncube | Musa Nyahwa | William Nyati | Livingstone Sango | Samuel Songo | John Vuvuya | and others whose names are unknown

Image credit (static): William Nyati, Tree Flowers (1945) (photo Debbie Sears) © The Curtain Foundation