Middlemen ripping-off local sculptors: Sowa

Tonderai Sowa


VETERAN sculptor and founding member of Chitungwiza Arts Centre Tonderai Sowa has said some middlemen were depriving local visual artists of potential profits due to limited access to foreign markets.

While Zimbabwean sculpture is considered as among the best and is in demand globally, sadly the majority of local visual artists are battling to earn a living from the trade.

In an interview with NewsDay Life & Style, Sowa bemoaned lack of appreciation and valuing of art by local people that has left many artists depending on foreign customers.

“I have more than 25 years of doing abstract art and have struggled to penetrate the local market. When it comes to buying the pieces, it seems local people don’t value art the way Europeans and Americans do,” he said.

“Not even a single local buyer has bought my artwork, they only come and appreciate the good work I am doing and go. Local people who buy the artwork are middlemen, who then go and sell them outside the country or purchase on behalf of foreign buyers.”

He added: “We are being ripped off by the middlemen, who are purchasing our products for a song and selling them at higher prices because of their links to buyers. We have no option due to our limited access to foreign markets.”

Sowa said he was carving from home (Seke, Murisa Park in Chitungwiza) and only went to the arts centre for exhibitions, adding that he was not spared by the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns.

“The COVID-19-induced lockdowns affected me in a huge way as most of my clients are foreigners and they could not travel. Trading was also affected by the high cost of shipment and airfares to transport the artifacts,” he said.

“There is a need for more exhibition places so that everyone can showcase their work freely as it can also lure young people to become sculptors.”

The Manicaland-born and bred Sowa was introduced to sculpting by former sculptor and golfer Julius Chinhoyi.

Sowa has exhibited his artworks in foreign countries like Angola at the Sokala Yokala Exhibition in 2014.

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