For a change Zimbabwean Chaz Maviyane-Davies. Justine Barratt


When controversial Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe announced in May 2000 that elections would be held in June, giving the opposition party little time to launch a campaign, Zibegan a month of “graphic activism.” Each day, he created one or two politically charged posters to counter ensuing voter intimidation by Mugabe’s government.

‘A lack of African criticism is worsening the crisis in Zimbabwe…’

Maviyane-Davies’ posters helped inspire an international community of support for fair elections in Zimbabwe. His works were posted daily to the website of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. They were also published in magazines and newspapers from South Africa to Sweden, made into screen savers, printed on T-shirts, and thrown out of vehicle windows in parts of rural Zimbabwe where the threat of state-sponsored preelection violence was high.

“I found it was the only way to keep my sanity in the center of an absurd and dangerous situation,” Maviyane-Davies says. So effective were the posters that Maviyane-Davies soon began to fear for his safety under the Mugabe regime, and in January 2001 he moved to the United States, where he is now a professor of graphic design at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston.

Aiming to reclaim the power of the poster from corporate advertisers through “creative defiance,” the 55-year-old designer creates posters that he believes will inspire hope for a more just future not only in Zimbabwe but wherever human rights violations occur.

“If design can be used to sell jeans and perfume, then I will use it to fight for democracy and against injustice,”

Motivated by a desire to portray Africa through a lens that sees more than just war and famine, Maviyane-Davies created a poster series that celebrates the essence of 12 articles in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights from an African perspective.


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