Dambudzo Marechera

Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities.

4 July – 26 August 2023, Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 – 16:00 (until 19:00 on Thursdays), BST

Old Fire Station, Gallery, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AQ

Free Admission: Visit Old Fire Station Page Here

In the mid-1970s, an unknown Zimbabwean writer called Dambudzo Marechera (1952-1987) arrived to study at the University of Oxford. After numerous disagreements with his college, however, he was expelled, leaving him homeless in the city. Living in a tent on Port Meadow, Marechera began writing what was to become his award-winning, internationally-acclaimed book, The House of Hunger.

Disruptive Dialogues traces Marechera’s life and work through Oxford and Harare, Zimbabwe, by considering what his work means for us today. This exhibition, part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, and supported by Crisis, Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, and the Old Fire Station, features Marechera’s own words and ideas alongside creative responses from UK and Zimbabwean writers, artists, and critics.

In the exhibition we journey with Marechera through four zones, beginning with an opening space that introduces us to this extraordinary poet, prose writer, enabler, and provocateur – a different kind of Oxford author.

In the second part of the exhibition, ‘the actual geography of living’, we explore Marechera’s presence in Oxford and Harare. We consider how he wrote about the cityscapes, and how – through digital maps produced for this project – people in both cities can enter into a dialogue with Marechera’s ideas.

The third section of Disruptive Dialogues, ‘it is not what you want, but what you need’, focusses on the ways in which Marechera’s writing invites us to speculate about the futures of both Oxford and Harare, about how we support artists, and about ourselves. It includes writing from members and ex-members of the homeless charity Crisis, inspired by Marechera’s work, and projects by architecture students from Oxford Brookes University.

The final part of the exhibition, entitled ‘the centre is everywhere’, brings the past into the present and challenges the notion that creativity and knowledge need to be located in any one place. Perhaps one of the things we need to learn from Marechera is that disruption can be a vital, healthy, and necessary way of working and living.

Marechera’s work poses uncomfortable questions about the city, institutions, and the spaces we live in, but it also shows how artistic production can act as a form of resistance to oppressive structures of power – and even enact change.

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