The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe celebrated Zimbabwe’s 40 years of independence by honoring 40 influential people who have made an impact in film, art, poetry, music, producers, performers, actors and directors. The National Arts Council used its platform (NAMA) National Arts Merit Awards to acknowledge, identify and reward such talent.
Of particular interest is the recognition of three living stone sculptors out of a mere group of forty people. That simply tells a story of a sculpture movement that has come of age, has made great strides and impact.
Internationally Zimbabwe sculpture is well represented and recognised but unfortunately back home the recognition and admiration cannot be equated to the international response.
However with such initiatives and recognition by organisations like NAMA such a lagging behind can be addressed but with much effort still needed.
Sylvester Mubayi, Tapfuma Gutsa and Dominic Benhura have all represented Zimbabwe on different levels and for decades. They have also all received numerous awards both locally and internationally.
Mubayi belongs to the old guard of stone sculptors who started the movement in the 1960’s and remains one of the very few members still alive. In 2017 he represented Zimbabwe at the Venice Biennale, a recognition which speaks volume of his immeasurable journey and contributions to the art sector and in particular the stone sculpture. In retrospect his is a well-deserved recognition and timeously awarded.
Born in 1942, Mubayi turns 79 this year but still makes outstanding works that are still being sort after and collected by gallerists and museums. He has attended numerous workshops and exhibitions in different parts of Europe and America and has helped and assisted a lot of young sculptors to start and maintain their careers.
Just like Sylvester Mubayi, Tapfuma Gutsa also represented Zimbabwe on its maiden appearance at the Venice Biennale in 2011. Although he chose not to showcase stone sculpture, his works on mixed media spoke volumes of the artist. Over the years Gutsa has mentored different people who have become highly successful over the past years. One of such is Dominic Benhura who has now gained international acclaim.
Gutsa has also contributed immensely to the arts by running and conducting workshops where he has nurtured young talent since the 1980’s. In other circles Gutsa is an art academic and at one point became the Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. After leaving the National Gallery, Gutsa set up a workshop at the Harare
Polytechnic where he worked for years.
Dominic Benhura is one of the most recognised stone artists in Zimbabwe. He has gained some kudos that are mostly identified with musicians and celebrities. In general Benhura has changed the scene of the Zimbabwe sculpture. There is a more appreciation of the ordinary artist and a sense of belonging both locally and
Benhura is well appreciated for his sculptures that are a depiction of play, joy and movement. Of late he has brought much colour to his works through the addition of paint and contrast. His works are found in different settings as commissions in both public and private places.
Dominic has made impact both as an individual and marketed artist and has become a brand ambassador to some organisations. He has donated some of his best works to organisations like UNICEF and to powerful individuals like the late Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe. Today he runs his studio in Greendale where he teaches art and receives international guests for workshops.
The 20th Edition of NAMA was held under the theme Our Legacy, Our Pride. The recognition of artists such as Benhura Mubayi and Gutsa is truly befitting considering their contributions over the years and how such contributions have impacted the international scene.
By Timothy Akuda
Features artworks by Sylvester Mubayi: