The Sunday Mail
ZIMBABWEAN sculpture has existed for centuries, with the art form playing a significant role in society.
So significant has been sculpture’s function that the country’s national emblem, the Zimbabwe Bird, was adopted from a stone carving.
Over the years, there has been a number of local sculptors who have made a huge impact on the global art scene — these include Sylvester Mubayi, Bernard Matemera, Tapfuma Gutsa, Dominic Benhura and Bryn Taurai Mteki to name a few.
The popularity of the country’s sculptures cannot be questioned as attested by the “Zimbabwe Sculpture: A Tradition in Stone”, a permanent exhibit at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the USA featuring artworks from numerous top sculptors.
From the works of first generation sculptors to that of newbies, there is clear evidence that the pool of talent will not dry anytime soon. With arts institutions like Chitungwiza Arts Centre continuing to brew future connoisseurs, there will not be a shortage of extraordinary artworks being produced in the country.
It gets better — there is a new breed of sculptors who are slowly deviating from the traditional stone curving, creating exhilarating pieces from found objects. There are several installations currently on show at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, which showcase the uniqueness of these new kids on the block.
Tendai Gwaravaza’s piece, “Mhepo Yedzinza”, is one of the stand-out fixtures in the gallery, with the artiste making use of wildlife bones, wood and iron to tell his story. The kudu skulls making up the bulk of the work are put together in such a way that they create a fire-like image which enhances a spiritual feeling, energy and the aspect of the afterlife.
There are numerous other pieces from the likes of Johnson Zuze, Enoch Chimbetete and Anusa Salanje. National Gallery of Zimbabwe chief curator, Raphael Chikukwa, said the future of local sculpture was looking bright as there is a new crop of artistes showing great potential.
“What we have today is a new breed of sculptor, whose work is inspired by found objects, for example the likes Johnson Zuze, who has an installation, which is made up of wire, bottles, plastic and a wide range of other objects,” said Chikukwa.
“We also have people like Terrance Musekiwa, who is inspired by found objects despite the fact that his father is a renowned stone sculptor. At the same time, he is not running away from the stone as he mixes it with other objects ranging from fabric to rubber.
“Whatever we throw away, these artistes have found a way to give those objects a new life, using sculpture and installations as a medium. These guys are bringing a new voice to the art scene.”
He pointed out that this sort of creativity to an extent might have been necessitated by lack of funding and their resilience has led them to open new avenues of exploration.
“For some of them, it is expensive to go and buy stone in places like Tengenenge and bring it here so in turn, these sort of challenges have opened up their creative valves, which is why we now have these unique artworks being produced.”
The National Gallery School of Visual Art and Design is playing its part in cultivating future creatives as it teaches a wide range of art forms including sculpture, photography, painting and mixed media. The students are being taught by professional tutors who include Doris Kampira, Julius Mushambadope and Munyaradzi Mazarire.
The curator added that there is need for an arts education policy which interrogates the issues on the curriculum if the craft is to develop art in the country.
“We have many renowned artistes who can impart their knowledge to university students, but because of our rigid system, which says you need to have a PhD to teach in those institutions — that is not happening. If these artistes are given an opportunity to teach, Zimbabwean sculpture, which today is evolving, could be taken to another level.”
He said that despite various challenges, the future was looking bright, a reason they continue to run the art school and continue doing international exhibitions to keep up the momentum.