Mapondera’s series “Tuck Shop,” perhaps his most poignant social commentary on the state of Zimbabwe, was made in response to the crippling effect of hyperinflation in the country—when shelves in popular supermarkets were completely emptied out, leaving people to turn only to local tuck shops for survival. The rudimentary stores were stocked with little more than snacks in plastic bags, tissue paper, and in some cases, lemons, at a time when basic staples like maize meal, rice, and oil for cooking were scarce.
To make the series, Mapondera replicated the informal architecture of tuckshops and limited supply goods by sandwiching together compressed packaging like cardboard egg crates and plastic food wrappers, along with distressed tarpaulin and toilet paper, between wooden frames to mimic shelves found in these small retailer units. He created dense layers of these mixed materials by folding, cutting, and stitching—transforming discarded materials into a visual tapestry of diverse forms and patterns. The works from this series conceptually examined a grave period in Zimbabwe’s recent history, where survival meant persevering through traumatic and desperate realities.