First-generation sculptors still going strong

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Several years after the discovery of Zimbabwean stone sculpture the art is considered as one of Africa’s most original and internationally acclaimed forms of creativity.

This form of art was first discovered in ancient traditions in the form of birds and other stone carvings at Great Zimbabwe and since the ’50s sculptures in soapstone and other soft material have been available especially for sale to tourists.

NewsDay recently caught up with two of the few remaining first-generation sculptors, Locardia Ndandarika, former wife of the late sculptor Joseph Ndandarika, and Sylvester Mubayi who is now 76 years old and still works like a youthful man.

Ndandarika is 69 years old and still regarded as “the mother of stone sculpture”.

“Being married to an artist really influenced my love for art and sculpture, thus I started making pieces, but unfortunately my husband was not supportive of my work then. He sold my pieces and squandered all the money alone,” said Ndandarika.

She said it was not long before they divorced giving her the freedom to freely work. At the time she had started working with traditional clay ceramics and her breakthrough was so inevitable that she became the first female artist to work at Chapungu sculpture village.

Ndandarika said her works were exhibited and she also conducted workshops worldwide including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and other prominent venues in US, France, Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands and Denmark.

In 1989 one of her works won a prize at a gallery show and it was supposed to compete at another exhibition in New Zealand the following year, but instead she sold it for $16 000 and bought a house in Chitungwiza for $15 000.

Ndandarika said it was by God’s grace that she managed to raise her seven children (one is late) through art.

She said rejection or discouragement was not the end of life and she was a great example of a hard worker. She now owns another house in Tynwald where she is currently residing and running a poultry project.

Her work is part of the permanent Frank McEwen Collection at the British Museum in London and she has also been a guest artist for the In Praise of Women series in both Toronto and London.

She shares a similar history with Mubayi who is currently based in Chitungwiza where he holds workshops which, in the past decade, have assisted other up and coming sculptors.

“Business is very slow because of low demand that is being caused by those that are copying original works from accomplished artists thereby flooding the market with similar pieces,” said Mubayi.

He said although he was very disgruntled with the forgery of art works, both his local and international art-collecting clients were still in touch with him and knew where to find him.

Mubayi said he started sculpting in the ’60s and has exhibited and attended various workshops in countries like US, Germany and Spain, among others and he was awarded the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Award for sculpture in 1969.

“I never consider retirement because what I do is a passion. I was born a sculptor and if ever I get too old to work on my own, I will still watch and teach others,” he said.

Mubayi, who is originally from Penhalonga, said besides sculpturing he enjoyed farming at his rural home and also maintaining his garden at his Chitungwiza residence.

Both Ndandarika and Mubayi have produced pieces that tell stories and their expertise has caught the attention of Jeff Brown, owner of Zimstone Gallery in Washington DC who is looking for funding to host the sculptors for a workshop.

“The two renowned sculptors are advanced in age and I am hoping to find funding to bring them to the US so that they may participate in a workshop where they can actually demonstrate the sculpting process as well as speak about their experiences over four decades of sculpting,” noted Brown.