From Zimbabwe, with Love: Graphic Activist Chaz Maviyane-Davies

As “The Graphic Imperative” poster exhibition continues its nationwide tour (next stop: the McDonough Museum of Art in Youngstown, Ohio, beginning February 22nd), we wanted to shed some light on the work of Chaz Maviyane-Davies, who curated the show with Elizabeth Resnick (a panelist at the recent Designism 2.0 confab) and Frank Baseman.

vote.jpgBorn in Zimbabwe, educated in London (including postgraduate work in filmmaking at Central St. Martins), and now a professor of design at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Maviyane-Davies’ work takes on issues of consumerism, health, nutrition, social responsibility, the environment, and human rights. Often a single work addresses multiple, entangled issues, as with “Cocacolonization” (above), a postcard he created on international branding.

From 1983 through 2000, Maviyane-Davies led The Maviyane-Project, a design studio in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. In the spring of 2000, when the country’s president Robert Mugabe allotted only a month for hastily announced elections, Maviyane-Davies undertook 30 days of “graphic activism,” during which he designed 50 “graphic commentaries” on the situation. The posters succeeded in called attention to Mugabe’s anti-democratic practices and raised worldwide support for fair elections in Zimbabwe. “By spending about an hour or two a day on a simple graphic comment related to our situation, I felt I could contribute something through the positive use of design to bring about some awareness to the abuse and violations of our rights being perpetrated in Zimbabwe,” he says.

The tense political climate, however, ultimately led the designer to leave the country for the United States in early 2001. In addition to co-curating and contributing work to “The Graphic Imperative,” Maviyane-Davies has completed a series of 12 posters based upon the United Nations Articles on Human Rights, a project that he hopes to continue with the remaining articles. Among his current projects is a book of his work that also tells his life story. In the spirit of the season, we’ll leave you with his “3 Wise Men” Christmas card:
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