By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
16 January 2014
A Russian artist who caused uproar among the ZANU PF loyal security forces over a song that mocks Robert Mugabe, has described fleeing possible arrest last week.
Petro Wodkins, a well known modern artist and performer, was last year invited to be part of the 2014 Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA).
“Probably they’re thinking I’m kind of artist who’s against the western world. So when I got this, I decided to make a project against Robert Mugabe,” Wodkins told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday.
Wodkins designed and built a large, gold painted ‘musical’ statue of himself blowing trumpets, wired to play a song produced by the artist too. The song, which Wodkins has released with a video this week, mocks Mugabe for being “bad for Zimbabwe.”
“Well I sent them (HIFA) a picture of the statue and the song, and then they refused to allow me in the show,” Wodkins explained, saying the HIFA officials withdrew their invitation because of the “nature” of his artwork.
“But I decided to go to Zimbabwe anyway and give my statue as a gift,” Wodkins said.
The artist travelled to the country last week and originally planned to set up the musical statue in Unity Square. But the plans changed when he realised “it would only last 30 seconds.” He instead decided to take the statute on a road trip across Zimbabwe, with hidden cameras in tow to film a video.
“I went around Zimbabwe, around villagers and markets and showed it to people and played the song, and just have some fun,” Wodkins explained.
He said the reaction from ordinary Zimbabweans was very positive, saying: “I only had maybe four complaints. Most people really loved it, and danced and had lots of fun.”
The artist eventually decided to leave the statue on Robert Mugabe road, and within five minutes police and army officials had been dispatched to tear the statue down. Wodkins said the statue was completely destroyed, along with the hidden camera that was discovered after the authorities searched the area.
A manhunt was then launched for Wodkins, but he managed to flee the security forces and leave the country before being caught.
“I did this as a reminder to the world of what such a dictator Robert Mugabe is. We should be reminding people about him, because right now he is seen just as a nice old man, but he’s not really,” Wodkins said.