Artwork

Stone of Shona

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Stone of Shona

Modern African stone sculpture is not "traditional", although much of its subject matter has traditional roots. During the precolonial era, local inhabitants were already artistically predisposed, fashioning works from various natural materials such as fibres, wood, clay, and stone for functional, aesthetic, and ritual purposes. The world renowned artist Bryn Taurai Mteki, a.k.a. Sekurutau, set a mark with his large sculpture titled “Chippi”, which was unveiled during the sixth All-Africa Games, hosted in Zimbabwe in September 1995. This sculpture also served as the games mascot. It is 2.5 meters high and is now displayed at the National Sports Stadium alongside the Games' Flame, as a part of the permanent collection. In 1996 young Mteki, now living in Europe, earned several great honors. In Germany, in town of Oelsnitz, he was awarded a silver medal, being the first ever African to receive this honor, for his work in bringing the art of sculpture to the town. This medal was one of a limited production of 100 pieces to be given as honors to the “World’s Rich and Famous” who visit that town. In 1997 Bryn went on a “Historic European Tour”, where he attended some sculpture workshops in Germany and London. Again in Germany he was honored with silver medals in the towns of Auerbach and Adorf. [1] Numerous stone artifacts such as the Zimbabwe bird[2] from the Great Zimbabwe state of the late Iron Age bear testament to this. Prior to the opening in 1957 of the Rhodes National Gallery in Salisbury, its first Director, Frank McEwen, met with Thomas Mukarobgwa, a young native steeped in rural knowledge and spirituality, and offered him an opportunity to pursue a career in art. Mukarobgwa became "the perfect mentor to guide the director of the new gallery into the ways and mores of the African people."[3] It was an introduction to local artist Joram Mariga and his early soft stone carvings that prompted McEwen to encourage early soapstone carvers to create works that reflected their culture. The Workshop School established by the gallery soon attracted more artists, many of whom had already been exposed to some form of art training from early mission schools and were established art practitioners.[4] These include John Takawira and Kingsley Sambo. The budding art movement was relatively slow to develop but was given massive impetus in 1966 by Tom Blomefield, a white South-African-born farmer of tobacco whose farm at Tengenenge Sculpture Community [de] near Guruve had extensive deposits of serpentine stone suitable for carving. A sculptor in stone himself, Blomefield wanted to diversify the use of his land and welcomed new sculptors onto it to form a community of working artists. This was in part because at that time there were international sanctions against Rhodesia’s white government, then led by Ian Smith, who had declared Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, and tobacco was no longer able to generate sufficient income. Appropriately, Tengenenge means "The Beginning of the Beginning" – in this case of a significant new enterprise that continues to grow and thrive. 1973 carving of an eagle by Bernard Matemera Further details of the establishment of the "first generation" of new Shona sculptors are given in the individual biographies of its leading members: Bernard Matemera, Sylvester Mubayi, Henry Mukarobgwa, Thomas Mukarobgwa, Henry Munyaradzi, Joram Mariga, Joseph Ndandarika, Bernard Takawira and his brother John. This group also includes the famed Mukomberanwa family (Nicholas Mukomberanwa and his protegees Anderson Mukomberanwa, Lawrence Mukomberanwa, Taguma Mukomberanwa, Netsai Mukomberanwa, Ennica Mukomberanwa, and Nesbert Mukomberanwa) whose works have been featured worldwide. Works by several of these first generation artists are included in the McEwen bequest to the British Museum.[5] During its early years of growth, the nascent "Shona sculpture movement" was described as an art renaissance, an art phenomenon and a miracle. Critics and collectors could not understand how an art genre had developed with such vigor, spontaneity, and originality in an area of Africa which had none of the great sculptural heritage of West Africa and had previously been described in terms of the visual arts as artistically barren.[6][7][8][9] Fifteen years of sanctions against Rhodesia limited the international exposure of the sculpture. Nevertheless, owing mainly to the efforts of Frank McEwen, the work was shown in several international exhibitions, some of which are listed below. This pre-independence period witnessed the honing of technical skills, the deepening of expressive power, use of harder and different types of stones, and the creation of many outstanding works. The "Shona sculpture movement" was well underway and had many patrons and advocates. In spite of increasing worldwide demand for the sculptures, as yet little of what McEwen feared might just be an "airport art" style of commercialization has occurred. The most dedicated of artists display a high degree of integrity, never copying and still working entirely by hand, with spontaneity and a confidence in their skills, unrestricted by externally imposed ideas of what their "art" should be. Now, over fifty years on from the first tentative steps towards a new sculptural tradition, many Zimbabwean artists make their living from full-time sculpting and the very best can stand comparison with contemporary sculptors anywhere else. The sculpture they produce speaks of fundamental human experiences - experiences such as grief, elation, humor, anxiety, and spiritual search - and has always managed to communicate these in a profoundly simple and direct way that is both rare and extremely refreshing. The artist 'works' together with his stone, and it is believed that 'nothing which exists naturally is inanimate' - it has a spirit and life of its own. One is always aware of the stone's contribution in the finished sculpture and it is indeed fortunate that in Zimbabwe a magnificent range of stones are available from which to choose: hard black springstone, richly colored serpentine and soapstones, firm grey limestone and semi-precious Verdite and Lepidolite.

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Stone of Shona

Modern African stone sculpture is not "traditional", although much of its subject matter has traditional roots. During the precolonial era, local inhabitants were already artistically predisposed, fashioning works from various natural materials such as fibres, wood, clay, and stone for functional, aesthetic, and ritual purposes. The world renowned artist Bryn Taurai Mteki, a.k.a. Sekurutau, set a mark with his large sculpture titled “Chippi”, which was unveiled during the sixth All-Africa Games, hosted in Zimbabwe in September 1995. This sculpture also served as the games mascot. It is 2.5 meters high and is now displayed at the National Sports Stadium alongside the Games' Flame, as a part of the permanent collection. In 1996 young Mteki, now living in Europe, earned several great honors. In Germany, in town of Oelsnitz, he was awarded a silver medal, being the first ever African to receive this honor, for his work in bringing the art of sculpture to the town. This medal was one of a limited production of 100 pieces to be given as honors to the “World’s Rich and Famous” who visit that town. In 1997 Bryn went on a “Historic European Tour”, where he attended some sculpture workshops in Germany and London. Again in Germany he was honored with silver medals in the towns of Auerbach and Adorf. [1] Numerous stone artifacts such as the Zimbabwe bird[2] from the Great Zimbabwe state of the late Iron Age bear testament to this. Prior to the opening in 1957 of the Rhodes National Gallery in Salisbury, its first Director, Frank McEwen, met with Thomas Mukarobgwa, a young native steeped in rural knowledge and spirituality, and offered him an opportunity to pursue a career in art. Mukarobgwa became "the perfect mentor to guide the director of the new gallery into the ways and mores of the African people."[3] It was an introduction to local artist Joram Mariga and his early soft stone carvings that prompted McEwen to encourage early soapstone carvers to create works that reflected their culture. The Workshop School established by the gallery soon attracted more artists, many of whom had already been exposed to some form of art training from early mission schools and were established art practitioners.[4] These include John Takawira and Kingsley Sambo. The budding art movement was relatively slow to develop but was given massive impetus in 1966 by Tom Blomefield, a white South-African-born farmer of tobacco whose farm at Tengenenge Sculpture Community [de] near Guruve had extensive deposits of serpentine stone suitable for carving. A sculptor in stone himself, Blomefield wanted to diversify the use of his land and welcomed new sculptors onto it to form a community of working artists. This was in part because at that time there were international sanctions against Rhodesia’s white government, then led by Ian Smith, who had declared Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, and tobacco was no longer able to generate sufficient income. Appropriately, Tengenenge means "The Beginning of the Beginning" – in this case of a significant new enterprise that continues to grow and thrive. 1973 carving of an eagle by Bernard Matemera Further details of the establishment of the "first generation" of new Shona sculptors are given in the individual biographies of its leading members: Bernard Matemera, Sylvester Mubayi, Henry Mukarobgwa, Thomas Mukarobgwa, Henry Munyaradzi, Joram Mariga, Joseph Ndandarika, Bernard Takawira and his brother John. This group also includes the famed Mukomberanwa family (Nicholas Mukomberanwa and his protegees Anderson Mukomberanwa, Lawrence Mukomberanwa, Taguma Mukomberanwa, Netsai Mukomberanwa, Ennica Mukomberanwa, and Nesbert Mukomberanwa) whose works have been featured worldwide. Works by several of these first generation artists are included in the McEwen bequest to the British Museum.[5] During its early years of growth, the nascent "Shona sculpture movement" was described as an art renaissance, an art phenomenon and a miracle. Critics and collectors could not understand how an art genre had developed with such vigor, spontaneity, and originality in an area of Africa which had none of the great sculptural heritage of West Africa and had previously been described in terms of the visual arts as artistically barren.[6][7][8][9] Fifteen years of sanctions against Rhodesia limited the international exposure of the sculpture. Nevertheless, owing mainly to the efforts of Frank McEwen, the work was shown in several international exhibitions, some of which are listed below. This pre-independence period witnessed the honing of technical skills, the deepening of expressive power, use of harder and different types of stones, and the creation of many outstanding works. The "Shona sculpture movement" was well underway and had many patrons and advocates. In spite of increasing worldwide demand for the sculptures, as yet little of what McEwen feared might just be an "airport art" style of commercialization has occurred. The most dedicated of artists display a high degree of integrity, never copying and still working entirely by hand, with spontaneity and a confidence in their skills, unrestricted by externally imposed ideas of what their "art" should be. Now, over fifty years on from the first tentative steps towards a new sculptural tradition, many Zimbabwean artists make their living from full-time sculpting and the very best can stand comparison with contemporary sculptors anywhere else. The sculpture they produce speaks of fundamental human experiences - experiences such as grief, elation, humor, anxiety, and spiritual search - and has always managed to communicate these in a profoundly simple and direct way that is both rare and extremely refreshing. The artist 'works' together with his stone, and it is believed that 'nothing which exists naturally is inanimate' - it has a spirit and life of its own. One is always aware of the stone's contribution in the finished sculpture and it is indeed fortunate that in Zimbabwe a magnificent range of stones are available from which to choose: hard black springstone, richly colored serpentine and soapstones, firm grey limestone and semi-precious Verdite and Lepidolite.