Interview with HUB-BUB Artist-in-Residence Masimba Hwati

April 15, 2020
Interview with HUB-BUB Artist-in-Residence Masimba Hwati

To experience Masimba’s work and performances, check out his YouTube channel:  

I'd love to begin with you introducing yourself, your background, and your work.

I'm an interdisciplinary practitioner. My main mediums are sculpture and sound among a few others. I started out as a ceramic artist and a painter, then evolved to assemblage and installation, and now I'm working in the intersections.

You've been in Spartanburg as one of the HUB-BUB Artists-in-Residence for roughly 8 months. What was your initial impression of the city, and what did the early adjustment period look like for you, if any?

The city struck me as laid back and historically interesting, it still does. I was coming in from Harare, Capetown, Ann Arbor, and Detroit and these places have a certain level of 'frantic,' some more than others. I guess I was ready for a contemplative experience here.

Has sheltering in Spartanburg due to necessary COVID-19 precautions changed the way you view the city? What does it mean for you to be experiencing the pandemic in a small town in South Carolina?

The city is almost always quiet except a few times when there are events so there is no big change for me. I live a block away from the fire department and police station downtown. The sirens provide, for me, red shift and blue shift experiences that kind of define the sonic scape. I guess it's a register of activity for the city. My favorite sonic register is the almost-daily train whistle after midnight, or in the early hours of the morning. These are constant and they provide some small assurance and grounding for me in this space. I imagine total silence as oppressively haunting (even though I think total silence doesn't exist, maybe only in the context of death). My experience sheltering has been challenging just as everyone else's has been—feelings of entrapment and sensory overload, but I'm grateful for family and friends, near and far.

I'm interested in discussions of both loss and gain. Personally, and professionally, what has been the hardest to lose at this time? What have you been offered that surprised you?

I miss going out and grabbing tacos, or a burrito. I think I've lost a bit of studio time with the stuff I can't work on at the apartment with power tools and other messy processes. I've gained a lot of time and moments of reflection. I've also made a few friends; formerly preoccupied neighbors have now become more open and curious. They must be bored looking at the walls in their apartments. The other day, on my way from collecting a package, I had an hour-long conversation with a neighbor who otherwise wouldn’t have had time for a conversation. That's when I realized that the 'Machine' had stopped for real this time. I've also been refocusing and calibrating my value system, learning to appreciate relationships and opportunities more. 

In times of crisis, we turn to the arts for comfort, release, stimulation, and so much more. What, in this unprecedented time, is functioning as a balm for you? 

Listening practices, and the art of slowing down and being still.

Emily Dickinson famously wrote, "Hope is the thing with feathers." As an interdisciplinary artist, I'm curious about what hope looks like to you. Better yet, because you work so often with soundwhat does hope sound like to you? 

Hope is an ambient sound, it’s almost at the end of the inaudible spectrum. It's very present but maybe not so audible. It takes deep listening.


Masimba Hwati is a multidisciplinary artist working in the intersections of sculpture, video, performance, and sound. He holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His work has been shown in Germany, France, Canada, London, the US, Australia, and Southern Africa. In 2015, he represented Zimbabwe at the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale in Italy. He is a 2019-2020 HUB-BUB Artist-in-Residence, and currently lives in Spartanburg, SC.  

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