When his late father appeared to him in a dream with a piece of stone shaped like a half-moon in 1982, Gift Bangura did not know that this would be a turning point in his career as a sculptor.
From a humble less experienced stone-carver in Mukayera village, Bangura has risen to be one of respected sculptors at the prestigious Tengenenge Sculpture Commnity in Guruve.
Since that dream, his pieces revolve around issues related to the moon and he believes that his father’s spirit leads him every time he wields his chisel on raw stone. For him, the pieces, their shapes and names just form easily when he begins to sculpt.
The first piece that he did after the dream attracted more than 60 orders from buyers from Germany and Netherlands.
“My father died in 1979 when I was just doing sculpture for the love of the art. I did not have many buyers then and I was working from our village with a few other youngsters that were interested in stone-craving,” recalls Bangure.
“I had so much interest in art and I started with basket weaving when I was still very young. I would go to Harare during holidays to see my uncle Henry Munyaradzi who was a sculptor at Chapungu Sculpture Village.
“That is when I developed interest in the art and my uncle would teach me the skills and techniques of sculpture every time I went to see him.”
Being in Guruve where stone-carving is widespread, Bangure did not have much challenge to master the art and at the age of 11 he was already producing good pieces although he still had a vague idea of the themes to pursue.
He began taking his pieces to the National Gallery of Zimbabwe for exhibitions but the limitation was that he had to carry the pieces by bus.
“When I had a complete piece to take to Harare for exhibition, I had to wrap it in a cloth and take it with me on the bus. The pieces had to be light because I would carry them on long way from home to the bus stop and then from a bus stop in Harare to the Gallery.”
His first piece was bought at the gallery but his trips to Harare were erratic since he was still in school.
Although he had love for the art, the 34-year-old artist says he did not plan to pursue sculpture as a career.
“I wanted to do office work like many of my peers but my uncle always encouraged me to take sculpture seriously.”
After completing secondary education at Matsvitsi School, Bangura began spending more time in stone-carving until that defining dream in 1982.
“My late father came holding a piece with a half-moon shape and asked if I was seeing what was in his hands clearly. I was seeing it clearly and he told me to start shaping my pieces around that idea.” He became a regular exhibitor at the gallery until he met Tengenenge Arts Centre founder Tom Blomfield during an exhibition in 1988. Blomfield invited him to come and join the centre.
Bangura joined Tengenenge the following year and he has never left the community since then. He lives with his two wives and 8 children that all survive on his sculpture income.
He sells about four pieces per month and spends every day at his workshop, pursuing shaping stones as he was instructed in the dream.