AVAC Arts has donated 2 tonnes of raw sculpting stones to upcoming resident artists working from the Chitungwiza Arts centre as a pilot project in a bid to promote and improve the overall livelihoods of young sculptors and female artists.
The future of stone sculpting does not lie in the hands of the present generation of artists alone. Rather, the responsibility is also in the hands of the younger generation to carry on the legacy to the next generations to come.
It is also said that if you empower a woman you would have empowered the community at large. Stone sculpting has traditionally been a sector dominated by males.
Most sculptors are either born from a family of sculptors and hence inherit the trade as a family legacy or find a mentor to teach them hands on. There are really no recognized formal training centers that teach artists stone sculpting in Zimbabwe. Mentoring plays a vital role in fostering continuity of Zimbabwe stone sculpting.
From our observation, a number of female artists and young artists are quite talented but lack adequate tools and material to sculpt on their own. As such, many are hidden behind the shadows of established artists who then exploit the creativity of these young artists and take credit for artworks they did not create themselves.
Most sculptors take up the trade full time and rely on it as the sole income generation activity. There is hence a need to help these young artists with that critical minimum effort to propel them to self-sustenance and enable them to exercise their originality and creativity.
A lot of artists have not been spared by the negative social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated tourism and global trade at large since 2019. Apart from the pandemic, Zimbabwe has been negatively affected by a lot of unemployment, drug abuse and high crime rate. Chitungwiza is rated the third largest urban settlement after Harare and Bulawayo. Chitungwiza has several high density suburbs and it was created as a dormitory town of Harare.
Idol minds are dangerous and by supporting local youth artists with raw stones we are able to get them off the streets, off drugs, off crime, off sexual abuse and working in a casual environment that allows them to be productive and creative.
Art is a good alternative source of employment that empowers the youth to survive as artists even with minimal education.
The earliest recorded stone sculptures in Zimbabwe were discovered at the Great Zimbabwe ruins. The Great Zimbabwe was built by ancestors of the Shona people starting in the 11th century and it was inhabited for over 300 years. The ruins are the largest ancient stone construction in sub-Saharan Africa. The soapstone bird sculptures were originally installed on walls and monoliths within the city. They are unique to Great Zimbabwe; nothing like them has been discovered elsewhere.
Stone sculptures are valuable for their natural elegance, sturdy nature, and versatility. Stone sculpture dates back to the Paleolithic era and it is regarded as the oldest mobiliary art in the history of civilization.
As such, stone sculpting is a significant part of the cultural heritage and identity of Zimbabweans. The purposes of stone sculpture art includes to inspire citizens and promote a sense of community identity, to record and celebrate important events in the history of a community, and to generate public discourse.
After this pilot project and depending on the outcome, AVAC Arts intends to provide even more raw stones to upcoming artists and also offer the same package to female artists as well. Currently there are at least 21 female resident artists at the center and they are to benefit soon and in a much bigger and more sustainable manner.