THE liquidation of Chapungu Sculpture Park last year cast a dark cloud on the already trembling Zimbabwean sculpture community.
Report by Godwin Muzari
The sculpture park that Roy Guthrie established in 1970 represented an exceptional artistic movement of the country’s stone-carvers and provided a golden bridge for most sculptors that made names on the international scene. First generation and most second generation sculptors from around the country found refuge and success at Chapungu, which was an imperative connection between the artists and their lucrative overseas market.
Sculptors like Fanizani Akuda, Joseph Ndandarika, Bernard Matemera, Sylvester Mubayi, Dominic Benhura, Colleen Madamombe, Agness Nyanhongo and Tapfuma Gutsa made colourful chapters of their sculpture history at Chapungu.
For more than three decades, the sculpture park was among the country’s integral arts establishments until unfortunate political events negatively impacted on tourism and severely affected the sculpture community.
Dwindling fortunes and mounting uncertainties hit a final blow to Chapungu last year when it was put into liquidation.
Collectors from outside the country showed interest in the works from Chapungu and some came to acquire the best from the yesteryear collection at the sculpture park.
Sculptures that had been at Chapungu for decades were put under the hammer and an important phase in the history of arts in Zimbabwe faced extinction. The link between artist generations and the imperative embodiment of the spirit of sculpture in the country were under threat.
Intervention came timely when the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) partnered the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) to rescue some sculptures and a few wood carvings for the gallery’s permanent collection.
Now, art lovers and young sculpture generations can relate to first generation sculptors from Chapungu through the pieces acquired for permanent collection.
An exhibition to showcase the works from Chapungu is underway at the gallery and is aptly titled Rescued.
NGZ curator Raphael Chikukwa said a reception to celebrate the collection would be held at the gallery soon.
“The pieces would be in our permanent collection for historical purposes,” Chikukwa said.
“The history of sculpture and art in general cannot be complete without mentioning the great work that was done at Chapungu. We are glad we will be able to safeguard that part of history through this permanent collection.
“We thank MMCZ for their support. There are still many pieces at Chapungu and we would be glad if other organisations helped us conserve that part of our arts history.”
The Rescued exhibition would indeed give sculpture lovers a reflection of life and work at Chapungu. Hanging on the walls are photographs of some of the great sculptors at work.
The images show Mubayi exhibiting some of his pieces in 1976, Nicholas Mukomberanwa displaying his sculpture titled Preacher in 1992 and Gutsa working on a stone also in 1992.
Other images also show artists like Benhura, Eddie Masaya, Nobert Shamuyarira, Nyanhongo and Joram Mariga at work.
Pieces on display were done by 11 artists, namely Ndandarika, Matemera, Akuda, Gutsa, Mubayi, Chrispen Chakanyuka, Madamombe, John Takawira, Bernard Takawira, Brian Watyoka and Nyanhongo.