NAC founding director Huggins dies. . .days after wife succumbed to COVID-19



LOCAL arts mother body National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (Nacz) founding director, Derek Huggins has died.

He was 81.

A veteran arts administrator, writer and publisher, Huggins died on Monday in Harare, a few days after the death of his wife Helen Leiros, a seasoned visual artist and mentor at Delta Gallery.

NACZ director Nicholas Moyo in a statement yesterday described Huggins as a towering figure in the cultural and creative industries of Zimbabwe.

“The death of Derek has dealt a big blow to Delta Gallery and the nation at large coming just days after the passing on of his wife Helen who was a seasoned visual artist and was at the core of teaching and mentoring young artists at the centre,” he said.

“The sector will never be the same without Derek and we hope the trustees of the Gallery Delta Foundation for Art and the Humanities established in 2008 will be able to carry on their (Huggins and wife) legacy of promoting the visual arts and young artists in Zimbabwe.”

Moyo said Huggins was executive of the National Arts Foundation from 1975 to 1985 when it was transformed through an Act of Parliament into the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe.

“He (Huggins) subsequently became the founding director of the NACZ a position he held until 1988. He opened the Gallery Delta in 1975 with his wife, NAMA Legend Helen Leiros, for the promotion of contemporary painting and was its managing director until his untimely death,” Moyo said

“During this period, he published Arts Rhodesia, Arts Zimbabwe and Gallery, the art magazine, from 1994 to 2002, to which he was also a frequent contributor. For over thirty years, he intermittently wrote short stories and his first anthology of stories: Stained Earth was published in 2005.”

Moyo said Huggins’s other published works include Writing Still (2003), Short Writings from Bulawayo Volume I and II, and Writing Now (2005). The Letters of Yvonne Vera and Derek Huggins‚ 2002-2004, are lodged in the archive at the National English Literature Museum of South Africa at Grahamstown.

“Huggins dedicated his life to the development of the arts sector in Zimbabwe having established Gallery Delta to provide an exhibition space for contemporary paintings, graphics, textiles and ceramics of the highest standard possible,” he said.

“The gallery provided a home for many adventurous young black visual artists who were mentored and developed their talents including Hilary Kashiri, Fasoni Sibanda, Ishmael Wilfred, James Jali, Lovemore Kambudzi, and others handpicked from the annual ‘Young Artists’ exhibitions, as they finished their studies, and gradually emerged as important painters in the country.”

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