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sculpture emerges as protest art
Garan'anga, African Colours
July 13, 2007
Today some sculptors
renege the tradition giving Zimbabwean sculpture claim to fame.
With the acquisition of stone a lost cause, an impossible dream,
they turn to what they find around them. Shards of pots, ancient
relics, today known as cultural artifacts, assume in sculpture-
their rightful place as Zimbabwe's cultural heritage. Bits of kitchenware
what is left behind of features of homes tied to tops of buses carrying
families to Mutoko, Mount Darwin become part of sculptures. Piles
of rubble, once a loved and tended garden is used in sculpture.
Dumps (plentiful now in the high-density areas) - tokens of new
movements of people are hunting grounds for sculptors.
use ancient and modern detritus to make telling futuristic, apocalyptic
works, voicing what lies inside rather than what is spoken. Thus,
sculpture emerges as protest art, as much as street theatre, spoken
poetry, or a pocket size volume of short stories. Kitchen spoons,
parts of an egg beater, tell of the love a woman once had in her
kitchen, a gleaming place, her household pride, bits of machine
tools of the love a man once had for his backyard workshop, his
bolt hole from family pressures. These sculptures may tell different
stories about Zimbabwe today to the stories told by the stones.
They tell of the way people literally shelve the past and start
again, give their lives a new setting.
In the international
art world, mixed media has become something of a gallery conceit,
an aspect of sculpture contrived to shock, Proactive _ stolen potentialsometimes
to displease. In Zimbabwe mixed media made through dire necessity
has much to say and creates a direct link between art and contemporary
Zimbabwean society. They are sculptors who pack up their tools,
their wives and kids, rope the roof of their car to start a new
existence, one where sculpture is simply "what you do"
rather than what you do for a living. They bring to these remote
places what is happening in stone in Highfield and Hatfield and
Chitungwiza, and conversely they learn about sculpture when sculptors
are close to and dependant on nature and close to their traditions.
The day starts
with sculpture rather than the bus to go to the city and pay the
rent. For bath take fresh stream not tub, for breakfast take fruits
not bread and tea. For material read raw stone, not what's in the
trash can and the pailings falling off the back fence. For buyers
forget e-mail, wait for the 4x4 drive up the dirt road. The family
is not a single mother or father coping with the kids but an extended
family, the grandmother making her pots, the old men talking the
day away under a tree. The rural sculptors get their stones first
up first hand from the mine rather than off another sculptor's truck
the left overs of the deal. They get time to know the shape and
textures of a stone, rather than "make do" with a stone
they are uncertain of.
sculpting starts at five years old or 85 years old. Liana Manzi
aged 12 is a prize winner for a competition in the Czech Republic.
The sculpture of eighty five year old Angolan Kakoma Kweli, maker
of wooden railway sleepers, then carver of the protruberances of
raw stones into women's breasts was blazed on a poster all over
Netherlands. At Tengenenge the Museum shows how the first sculptors
started off, hardly different from these post urban sculptors' first
efforts. At Bhobogrande the women knitting, chrochetting in accompaniment
to the carving of the stones. In Nyanga a rock with an eye becomes
a cat. In these bush settings sculptors do not sculpt in a back
yard filled with empty bottles, take away left overs and playing
children. Each sculptor has their own "little acre" their
personal and professional space. As these sculptors lock their cell
phones, restore the sanctity to their marriages and browse the raw
stones at length, sculpting becomes a way of life, to be pursued
when sales are not there.
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