The Sunday Mail
For more than three decades, the nation has become accustomed to mass displays during the main independence celebrations in Harare.
Of major note are schoolchildren, who each shuffle big cards to collectively form huge images.
Among the images from these children, who were traditionally assembled in a bay opposite the VIP Stand, was a big portrait of the former president, Mr Robert Mugabe.
In the last two decades, Mr Mugabe’s portrait would notably be accompanied by strong political messages denouncing the West and opposition political outfits.
For the first time in many years, a different portrait and message will be displayed during the Independence Day celebrations at the National Sports Stadium.
The mass portrait of President Emmerson Mnagagwa is ready to replace that of Mr Mugabe, which had stood and become tradition since 1984.
Further, the independence tone has shifted from politics to economics and peace.
Measuring almost eight metres both in length and width, the huge portrait of President Mnangagwa will this Wednesday beam before a live audience of over 60 000 and millions others watching from television sets both locally and internationally.
The man behind this “Giant ED” artistic work is Mr Charles Dube.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail last Friday, Mr Dube said he was honoured to have worked on the President’s portrait.
“I was called by the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, to do the portrait of our new President and so since 13 March, I have been working on the project.”
He also said he did all the former president’s brush-painted portraits that were exhibited at previous Independence Day celebrations.
“Since 1984, I have been painting the President’s portraits for the mass display, but this year’s portrait is the biggest I have ever done.”
Born in Binga, the 58-year-old artist trained in visual arts and mass displays at Mount Hampden Academy from 1981 to 1983.
He specialises in origination and brush painting.
“I graduated from Mount Hampden in 1983 and am a proud holder of a class one licence in visual arts,” he added.
Mr Dube said his first portrait project after graduation was a brush-painted billboard picture of Mr Mugabe, which used to be erected at Rufaro Stadium in Mbare.
The former Kamativi Mine office clerk, who is now based in Bulawayo, divulged that, “I am not employed by Government, but I am called whenever need arises.
“During such times, I am accommodated at my younger brother’s home in Budiriro 3.”
The artist keeps a well-designed gallery-like folder, a museum of his life events since his first day in visual arts training.
Back home in Bulawayo, Mr Dube, who is also a United Repentance Apostolic Church (URAC) pastor, nurtures aspiring artists.
“I have converted two of my rooms for classes and I train aspiring artists,” he said.
The father of three and grandfather of three said none of his children has keen interest in art.
“My daughter is a married mother of two, my eldest son is a policeman and my youngest son is in Grade Six. Unfortunately, none of them has a keen interest in art,” he said.
Mr Dube’s greatest wish is to meet President Mnangagwa, the man whom he says he only knows from tracing his distinct facial features.