The Sunday Mail
CHITUNGWIZA Arts Centre continues to be one of the key pillars of the local sculpture industry, 23 years after its establishment.
The centre, which is arguably one of the finest art galleries in Zimbabwe, was initially pioneered by less than 40 sculptors.
However, the number of artists operating under the arts hub has since risen to more than 400.
The centre is famed for providing a platform for women, youths and the disabled to get exposure from experienced artists.
In turn, this has helped in talent nurturing, creating employment and opening various other opportunities associated with the trade.
The local arts hub gets most of its support from foreigners (tourists) who either buy items as souvenirs or for resell in their countries of origin.
Only a handful of locals actually purchase art pieces for collection.
The majority act as middlemen between sculptors and overseas markets.
A 56-year-old artist, Richard Mupumha, who has been in the industry for 35 years, opened up to The Sunday Mail Society.
“Our local market is yet to accept this form of art. Most of the people who buy our products are tourists and a few blacks who are into the buying and selling of our products across borders,” he said.
Source of inspiration
Chitungwiza Arts Centre chairperson Godwin Madzinga reckons the iconic Tengenenge Arts Village in Guruve nurtured and inspired their operations.
“Tengenenge has produced fine artistes over the years. Our first generation artistes here (Chitungwiza Arts Centre) like Sylvester Mubayi came from the village and they have passed their knowledge to a lot of aspiring sculptors who are now brands in their own right,” revealed Madzinga.
Viability of trade
However, Madzinga indicated that business was presently subdued.
“The market is on the low side these days and the guys are going for three to four months without registering a single sale. Probably it is because tourists are no longer visiting this side as much as they did in the past. It could also be due to the fact that the majority of locals do not see the importance of sculptures in preserving, promoting and telling the Zimbabwean story,” he said.
Nevertheless, Madzinga notes the centre remains a vital source of livelihood for many artists.
“Some of the artists from our hub have had the opportunity to exhibit in Europe, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, United States of America, South Korea, China etcetera in cultural exchange programmes. The visits have opened new windows and market opportunities for them.”
Art focus and significance
Tago Tazvitya opines their work is an integral part of our culture.
“Most of our products talk about experiences, old and new culture in Zimbabwe. In short, we talk about culture, our tradition through stones,” he said.
Chitungwiza Arts Centre was established in 1997 by the then Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture.
The project was funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under its poverty alleviation plan.
Chitungwiza Municipality donated land.
The centre is one of the few successful community-based projects in urban centres.
Most of its members are past winners of the prestigious National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) gong.
The centre was established in order to offer innovative and quality arts products which meet international standards.
It was also meant to contribute to the country’s economic development.