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Biography of Berry BICKLE

Zimbabwe > Arts : Berry BICKLE

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Biography :

Berry Bickle b. Zimbabwe, 1959 is an artist

Bickle was educated at the Durban Institute of Technology and Rhodes University in South Africa. She works between Zimbabwe and Mozambique, addressing the region's long history of colonialism that has been, in part, documented, regulated and perpetuated through the written word of the colonizers. She is most fascinated by the fragments of history that remain from both official scripts as well as personal, everyday notes, cookbooks, scrapbooks and almanacs of the generations of Africans living under colonial rule. Her works range from delicate, mixed-media pieces that refocus our attention on snippets of script (often reproduced on what look like old parchments) to playful ceramic works upon which a loose cursive script is written to large-scale installations of mixed media, layered with fragmented stories, poems, testimonials, diary excerpts and edicts to video projections and photography. Indeed, her artwork is "archaeology" of the present, incorporating everyday material into spectacular tableaux. A versatile artist, Bickle asks her viewers to question the potency, the prevalence and the differences between senses of memory and history, both personal and collective.

Berry Bickle calls her investigations of texts and language "rewrites." She is particularly fascinated by the relationship of texts to history and memory. In her heavily textured and layered works, in which she often prints, scratches, scribbles and even burns fragments of texts into and on a variety of surfaces, Bickle encourages us to reflect on the process of inscription. She draws on the decaying remnants of archival texts, anthologies, colonial travel narratives, family journals and the ubiquitous written messages on scraps of paper that inform our lives. In Sarungano, which translates in two Shona dialects to mean both the storyteller and the story told, Bickle combines everyday objects with the fragmented text of William Shakespeare's Sonnet 66, which speaks of the poet's weariness of the social and moral injustices of the world. Bickle uses this sonnet, taught to every Zimbabwean school child, to reflect on the tragic betrayal of the postcolonial dream in her native land and to attack those who have unjustly wielded power from the colonial period to the present. Her manipulation of this classic European text highlights the complex story of European cultural dominance in Africa and pays homage to a generation of African youth caught up in the turbulence of Zimbabwe's history.

Through its size, scale and palette, this work is intended as a memorial, commemorating suffering and the broken fragments of lost lives. In Shona tradition, grieving relatives leave the personal objects of the deceased shattered upon the grave. Some of Bickle's objects are filled with sand or salt as a tribute to the missing--the salt emphasizing pain and the earth representing release from worldly suffering.

Selected Exhibitions

1993 Zimbabwe/Tanzania: contemporary artists, Helsinki, 1993
1994 5th Havana Bienna"le, Cuba
1995 Johannesburg Africus Biennale
On the Road,africa'95, London, England
1996 MBCA-Decade of Award Winners, National Gallery, Harare
1999 Artists against landmines,Franco/Mozambique Cultural Centre, Maputo
World Video Festival, Gates Foundation, Amsterdam
Artistes contemporains du Zimbabwe, Pierre Gallery, Paris
Women in African Art, Vienna
2001 El tiempo de Africa, Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, Gran Canaria "Siyaphambili-2000," National Gallery, Harare
Art dans le Monde, Paris
2002 Africas: The Artist and the City: A Journey and an Exhibition, Barcelona, Spain

Selected Readings

"A carta de Gaspar Vezoso I : TZR studies a painting by Berry Bickle" Zimbabwean Review 3 (2), April-June 1997: 1-2.
Chennells, A.J., "Empire's offspring" in Gallery: the art magazine from Gallery Delta (7 March 1996): 3-6
Garlake, Peter S., "Memory, mischief and magic in the country of my heart" in Gallery: the art magazine from Gallery Delta(17 September, 1998): 22-25.
Lieros, Helen, "Earthãwaterãfire, recent works by Berry Bickle" in Gallery: the art magazine from Gallery Delta (11 March 1997): 20-21.
Sanner, Pierre-Laurent, "Berry Bickle" in Revue Noire 28 (March-April-May) 1998: 224-227.
Subiros, Pep, "Africa or Africas?" and "Berry Bickle" in Africas: The Artist and the City: A Journey and an Exhibition. Barcelona, Spain: Contemporary Cultural Centre, 2002.

Last update : 07/14/2007

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