Timothy AkudaThe legacy of the Takawira brothers, John, Bernard and Lazarus made immense contributions to the Zimbabwe Sculpture movement.
Unfortunately with the death of the only remaining brother Lazarus that legacy in life comes to an end. However the legacy will continue to be celebrated in their stone sculptures as much as it will be celebrated in history.
Lazarus Takawira who was born in Nyanga in 1952 was charismatic in celebrating women through his artworks. His mother was a traditional pottery maker. His entire career was themed on the woman figure and he openly voiced his love for the women in his life. In the book, Spirit of a Woman- A journey through the sculpture of Lazarus Takawira written by the late Celia Winter Irving under the directorship of Marie Imbrova one gets to visually see and to appreciate that dominance in his works.
He belonged to the Nyanga group which started stone sculpture under the guidance of the late god father Joram Mariga. His brothers John and Bernard were well known for their love in working the hardest of the stones perhaps to match their physically built bodies.
Just like his brothers, Lazarus commanded respect through his physical strength, body structure and height a quality that they inherited from their mother. One of the brothers Patrick Takawira who was born in 1944 died early in life in 1976 but by then had already made a mark exhibiting at the then National Gallery of Rhodesia in Harare and Bulawayo as well as the University of California in Los Angeles USA.
One thing they had in common as brothers was the respect for the natural stone. However the difference between his work and that of John and Bernard was the crudeness. Though he left much of the stone untouched, he concentrated on certain areas and refined them to produce a high quality and an unmatched standard of pure finish. He enjoyed working on the hard stones which most artists shy from like marble and dolomite.
His work was influenced but Frank McEwen the first director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe then Rhodesia. Takawira had much reverence for McEwen. Being a member of the Nyanga group meant he had direct contact and interactions with McEwen who frequently visited the Nyanga artists and exhibited their works. He saw him as one who helped the artists to embrace their culture and infuse it in their stone works. Such influence also impacted on how he viewed life and its surrounding.
He respected his culture and its folklores and most of his sculptures were linked to such. He was in touch with his culture and enjoyed giving Shona titles to some of his sculptures like Muroora, Ambuya and Amai.
In between his journey as an artist, Takawira briefly joined the police force and later permanently settled down as a stone artist and become successful. In the early 1980s through to the late 1990s he was living in Chitungwiza and later decided to work in isolation and settled on his farm in Ruwa where he enjoyed vast land and displaying his works as if in a public garden.
He became an international artists through his travels and exhibitions and saw his works permanently collected by institutions like the World Bank, The African Art Collection Museum in Paris as well as The Prince Charles Collection in London UK.
He received different awards and prizes from the National Gallery of Zimbabwe from 1988 through to 1998 including distinctions and merits.
Unfortunately Lazarus Takawira died in the afternoon of Tuesday 12 January 2021 at the age of 68. He leaves an indelible and traceable mark on the history of sculpture in Zimbabwe, a family legacy – a legacy in stone.