Mutanda, Maxwell

– Mixed –

“The artwork’s title (and digital projection) highlights the financial impact of the circular economy.
[Mopane worm farming] is so important to the sustainable livelihood of rural and
informal communities that Botswana features a mopane worm on the five pula coin.”

What inspires you?

Maxwell Mutanda
Location: Harare
Artwork statement: “This artwork showcases work in the green economy by focusing on the sustainable farming of the mopane worm (amacimbi). The mopane worm is an edible caterpillar of Gonimbrasia belina, a sub-species of emperor moth, and a staple source of protein for many communities in Gwanda, southwest Zimbabwe, Limpopo, northeast South Africa, and beyond. In contrast to industrial agriculture, this spatial practice showcases the role of the built environment in minimizing the embedded energy associated with food production because the mopane worm is cultivated in natural landscapes and follows the natural life cycle of plants and animals without the use of petrochemical fertilizers.”


  • What was your experience with art as a child and growing up?

Art started out as a way for me to escape the world. 

  • How did it evolve over time?

Presently, art for me is a way to redefine the world or retell history. Art is a way to think anew about the world and our place in it.

  • Who or what influences your art? How would you like your art to influence others?

My practice is influenced by the interconnectedness of art and science. This idea defines the work of explorers like the 18th century Prussian geographer Alexander von Humboldt. However, it can be traced back to early indigenous or aboriginal art—such as rock paintings or Mbuti barkcloth from the Ituri Rainforest in present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo—which served not only as an aesthetic representation of life but also an analytical record thereof.

  • How do you define the following: Art? Sustainability? Zimbabwe?

Art: The role of art is to reflect and question society.
Sustainability: The role of sustainability is to safeguard humanity’s debt to one another and nature.
Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe is not only my home, but a community of people—the living, the dead, and those yet to be born.

  • What is the best way for a viewer/reader to experience your art?

I believe in reading pictures. My intention is that the viewer’s experience of my work informs it. By this I mean that without the viewer’s engagement, the work remains incomplete. The viewer draws the last line, paints the last stroke or completes the pattern or narrative of the work.

  • What do you think sets you apart from other artists in Zimbabwe?

Society is a construction of many elements including but not limited to labour geography, economic geography, political geography, and socio-spatial practice. My work is defined by quantitative and qualitative research into society that stems from my architectural training. In this regard, I see architecture is not just a physical construct, but a social one as well. In 2020 I will be studying an MSc in Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Oxford, where I hope to expand my work into the artistic and scientific exploration of climate change, infrastructure, and the modern African city.

Artwork title: Phane e palame kala ya Mophane, 5 Pula madi a tshipi a masha a Botswana