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Benhura speaks on art

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Award winning second generation sculptor Dominic Benhura who has remained one of Zimbabwe’s most prominent artists since 1987 is driven by a strong passion for innovation and creativity.

He is revered amongst a very active second generation of local sculptors and his pieces are on demand internationally.

He has travelled to various countries all over the world to attend workshops and exhibitions.

NewsDay (ND) Entertainment and Arts reporter Tinashe Sibanda recently caught up with Benhura (DB), a down-to-earth sculpting champion for a chat at his Dominic Studios.

ND: Which countries have you toured recently?

DB: I recently toured Spain and US for solo shows that were well received.

ND: How much was your most expensive piece since you started?

DB: It’s difficult to tell because I work with dealers, who buy the work, put their mark-ups and keep it private.

ND: I understand you took over the Tengenenge Sculpture community, under what conditions did you take over the place?

DB: The owner, due to the social and political climate at that time, wanted to leave the country and he wanted someone to take over the place and I simply did that.

ND: How has progress at the village been since you took over?

DB: It has been very difficult since it is a tourist-driven place which has performed poorly because there is great competition with too many similar centres in Harare.

The prizes are almost similar that one would just opt to buy from the nearest seller. Because Tengenenge is further it’s at a disadvantage. I however have to find a way of funding it and keep it going because that is where most prominent artists came from.

ND: Many artists teach their children to sculpt. Do any of your wives or children pursue art?

DB: None of them are into art, in fact my twin daughters who are currently doing their “A” Levels passed their “O” Level subjects with distinctions and they only failed Art. I’m not worried about that because I believe they can be whatever they want in life and I’m happy about it.

ND: Rumour has it that you now assign sculptors to do certain pieces and you take the credit, is that true?

DB: No! People always say what they want. If that was the case my creativity would have waned. I learnt from someone. Everyone learns from someone then they find their way, but it always seems like a problem if you become more successful than others.

ND: Is intellectual property law being applied to sculpture?

DB: It is. I took a few guys to court two years ago and I won the cases, but the fines are too minimal and at that time I received money equivalent to $10. The law is not so specific, it’s too general.

ND: So, how hard has piracy affected you?

DB: Definitely, big time. It’s so unfortunate there’s not much one can do because at the end of the day it’s (the lawsuits) at your own expense.

ND: Which country is the best market for your pieces?

DB: Many countries. I have done shows all over, but currently I’m focusing on America. I have a great market internationally.

ND: Many sculptors say their work is spiritual. Is yours spiritually-inspired?

DB: No, mine are inspired by my day-to-day life.

ND: What else do you do besides sculpture?

DB: I always work every day till late. The only different thing I can probably do is take my kids to school because even at Christmas I work.

Since I stopped drinking 15 years ago I dedicated my whole life to my work. It’s always best spending your time doing a job that you like because it’s always fruitful.

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