BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe — The exhibit at the National Gallery is now a crime scene, the artwork banned and the artist charged with insulting President Robert Mugabe. The picture windows that showcased graphic depictions of atrocities committed in the early years of Mr. Mugabe’s 30-year-long rule are now papered over with the yellowing pages of a state-controlled newspaper.
But the government’s efforts to bury history have instead provoked slumbering memories of the Gukurahundi, Zimbabwe’s name for the slaying and torture of thousands of civilians here in the Matabeleland region a quarter century ago.
“You can suppress art exhibits, plays and books, but you cannot remove the Gukurahundi from people’s hearts,” said Pathisa Nyathi, a historian here. “It is indelible.”
As Zimbabwe heads anxiously toward another election season, a recent survey by Afrobarometer has found that 70 percent of Zimbabweans are afraid they will be victims of political violence or intimidation, as thousands were in the 2008 elections. But an equal proportion want the voting to go forward this year nonetheless, evidence of their deep desire for democracy and the willingness of many to vote against Mr. Mugabe at great personal risk, analysts say.