By Alois Vinga

“Happy Independence Day Zimbabwe Today 18 April But you are more than 31 years old You are an ancient land of old, Dating far back to the mighty days The days of MaDzimbabwe The days when animals and man could speak The days when man had no greed in his heart The days when your children lived as one.”

This read a poem recited by Tendai Tagarira, an Exiled Zimbabwean Author and Poet. Madzimbabwe is a ruined city in the south-eastern hills of Zimbabwe which was later renamed madzimbabwe.

Image result for great zimbabwe birds
One of the soapstone birds found at Great Zimbabwe

It was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s Late Iron Age. Construction on the monument by ancestors of the Shona people began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century.

The sculptured walls and other artifacts found at the Great Zimbabwe cite signify that sculpture art occupied an imperishable position in the country’s values and cultural systems.

One then wonders why sculpture art appears more to be a preserve of the international community. Why is it most of the Zimbabweans of this age are not incorporating sculptures into their cultural value systems? Who shall resurrect this important arm of the creative industry?

Dismantling the dilemma, Nhamo Chamutsa a sculptor with Chapungu Art Gallery observed that the only long term culture preservation system, sculptures is at risk of extinction if nothing is done urgently to put it back on track.

‘Lack of effective and consistent government support is a major contributor which has incapacitated sculptors to pass on the tradition from one generation to the other. It has now become the trend that officials appointed to portfolios in departments like the Ministry of Arts and Culture are drawn from the music sector or the sporting fraternity.’

‘This prompts more attention to be paid to music and sport at the expense of other important artistry works such as sculpting which has influenced the origins of this country.’

‘Poor art curricula being taught at various institutions in the country has also negatively impacted on the evolvement of fully fledged artists who can contribute meaningfully to the arts industry.’

Chamutsa also highlights that religious barriers have negatively impacted on the appreciation of sculpture art since most people view stone works as goblins that house ritualized spirits.

Another sculptor, Luke Saidi notes that the challenges faced in sculpting are a result of poor political ties with international community being currently experienced.

‘There used to be lucrative business from western buyers and this motivated the local players to remain on track. Currently there is nothing on the ground to inspire the players in the sector.’

For Sam Nyaude a Hatfield based sculptor bemoaned the lack of a coherent cultural policy which encompasses all categories of art in Zimbabwe, despite having attained independence thirty five years ago. ‘There is need for wider consultation in the drafting of a cultural policy for it to be relevant. On the other hand this is just a case of poor organization by the artists themselves. The shocking reality is that there isn’t any collective approach to deal with the issues affecting us. Most of the artists choose to operate individually.’

‘Organizations such as the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe are also answerable because they are not doing enough to reflect the artistic diversity of the country. Much focus is on performing artists, even when they take artists to international markets they rarely prioritize sculptors.’

Nyaude also blamed the perpetual referral and honour to well known artists like and not affording other forthcoming artists the limelight to be noticed.

“Organizer’s of awards such as the National Arts and Merit Awards must also set categories of the upcoming to the best artists just to reinforce the existence of sculpture.’ He said.

Responding to the concerns Sport, Arts and Culture Principal Director Paul Damasane explains, ‘Government has supported the artists but they should do enough to respond to market dynamism and strategize on methods to permeate the target markets.’

‘The sculptors must also transform from traditional sculpting to meet the current trends in sculpture market demands. They should also take advantage of the forthcoming cultural policy which encompasses the heterogeneous nature of Zimbabwean art.

Strides have been taken to promote African Cultural Products internationally. In 2008 the African Union Ministers Of Culture came up with a Plan Of Action On The Cultural And Creative Industries In Africa. The objectives of the Plan are to facilitate the safeguard, organization, production, marketing, distribution, exhibition and preservation of the African cultural and creative industries.

 

The plan also focuses on strengthening the African cultural identity and creativity as well as broaden civic participation in endogenous cultural development; acknowledge the cultural dimension of sustainable development in Africa.

 

In attempting to find a lasting solution to the dilemma Doctor Tony Mhonda observes that unless and until indigenous Zimbabweans become patrons of our own art and literature, we shall continue to ask questions. We need to demystify the myths of Zimbabwean stone sculpture and award it its true identity and definition.

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