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a rock and a hard place
August 08, 2003
the well-tended gardens of an old Dutch chateau, there is a surprising
exhibition of stone sculptures. Over a hundred works of art from
about two dozen Zimbabwean sculptors are spread out in the dappled
sun and shade beneath tall beech, pine and plain trees. The gurgling
of a fountain and chirping birds form a bucolic chorus.
This is not
just any exhibition. Some of the proceeds from this show will help
restore the chateau, Kasteel Keukenhof, another portion will go
to help maintain the National Gallery of Bulawayo and, most importantly
of all, the sales will help sustain the artists themselves. These
are rough times in Zimbabwe. A drought, political turmoil and social
unrest are all having their effect, but Zimbabwean sculptors George
Mubayi and Euwitt Nyanhongo are reluctant to talk much about it.
a problem," says Euwitt, "not a problem that we cannot work but
you know the problems affect the tourist industry. At the moment
there are very few tourists coming to Zimbabwe, so that affects
our business very much."
Euwitt comes from a family of eight children. His father and five
of the children are sculptors, so the lack of tourists affects the
van der Zwart has been going to Zimbabwe for 20 years. He owns Gallery
Sonda in The Hague, that deals exclusively in sculpture from Zimbabwe.
It was his idea to mount a big outdoor show and, with help from
the Dutch development organisation HIVOS, he was able to bring artists
over to demonstrate their work. According to Hugo, the results were
good for everybody, including the European public.
"In Europe, there is a very big market, but only a for very good
sculptures. There is a bit of difference among artists…Maybe this
will help, by discussing with the artists themselves. I'm sure that
it is important for the buyers."
that his own father is a first generation sculptor. In Zimbabwe,
there is a difference in approach, he says, between the first, second
and third generations.
first generation artists want to depict the cultural values of their
people. If you ask them, there's always a tale behind the sculpture.
It's a story and many stories. I comment on social-political issues.
These first generation sculptors, they want to dwell upon where
they come from, their roots. What I try to do is capture movement,
use movement in my sculptures to make a statement, whereas people
in the first generation want to make iconography. There's a spiritual
element in their sculptures."
The attitude towards sculptors in Zimbabwe has changed, too,
says Euwitt: "A long ways back sculptors were considered as very
poor and unlearned people. But nowadays you can see some of the
graduates become artists, because they have realised that there
is an unlimited freedom in the field of art. You can express yourself
and express your feelings in the way you like. So I think there
is now a development of respect from the community."
Mubayi's two-part sculpture "Teamwork" consists of a large hand
holding a baton and another hand reaching back to receive it. The
straining bodies of two runners remains unseen, only implied. He
acknowledges that the message that people need to work together
might be an important one for people back home, who are struggling
to survive inflation, food shortages and political turmoil in Zimbabwe.
"I wouldn't think of myself as a political artist. I would like
to think I'm a contemporary artist, working within the time-space
that I'm living within, and therefore the things that I sculpt are
a reflection of the things going on around me. Also the beauty of
a sculpture – of art in general - is that it has a wide spectrum
of meaning. People can look at it and it talks to them in its own
unique way. If you look at it and you think that it's political
to you, then it IS political."
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