Sculptors from Zimbabwe (part 1)

5 Mei

My first experience with the study of the Zimbabwean stone sculpture during the period 1950 – 1980

Beeldentuin Maastricht – Heerdeberg

In the neighbourhood of Maastricht in the Netherlands, the city where I live, there is  a sculpture garden, called Beeldentuin Maastricht – Heerdeberg. The owner of this sculpture garden is Mrs. José de Goede, a former auctioneer and assessor of art and antiques. She has a long time experience in exhibiting and selling Zimbabwean stones in galleries. Almost every year she travels to Zimbabwe in order to buy sculptures directly from the sculptors. She knows the sculptor and their families very well and she invites them, like the (late) Bernard Matemera and Edward Chiwawa, to give workshops in her sculpture garden.

The sculpture garden is in the vicinity of a marl quarry. The quarry forms the outline. The sculptures are partly arranged on banks near the border of the quarry and partly in a natural garden (Fig. 1a + 1b).

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Fig. 1a Group of sculptures near the border of the quarry

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Fig. 1b Group of sculptures in a natural garden

 José de Goede is very committed with the sculptors in Zimbabwe. She founded the Bernard Matemera Foundation. With help of this foundation she is building schools for children in Zimbabwe and supports the families of sculptors, who run out of income by occasion.
As I mentioned before, she invites well-known sculptors from Zimbabwe in her sculpture garden to give workshops. Last year she welcomed Edward Chiwawa with his son McCloud and another junior sculptor to teach in her sculpture garden.

Book ‘Sculptors from Zimbabwe’ by the late Ben Joosten

This book is published in 2001 by Galerie de Strang, Dodewaard, the Netherlands, and holds a lexicon of all the sculptors of the first generation.

The lexicon is divided into five sections, with sculptors from the:

– Cyrene Mission, headed by Canon Edward Paterson;
– Serima Mission, headed by Father John Groeber;
– Workshop School in Harare, headed by Frank McEwen;
– Nyanga Group, headed by Joram Mariga;
– Tengenenge Sculptor Community, headed by Tom Blomefield.

 Ben Joosten was a very conscientious man, he got his information on the stands. As far as he managed to research, he mentioned from each sculptor his bibliography , his exhibitions and the collections, as well as where his of her sculptures are saved. So  if you have to look up some information about a sculptor from the first generation , you will find this in the book. Will someone ever write such a book about sculptors of the second generation?

Mrs. José de Goede donated me, as Ambassador of the Beeldentuin Maastricht-Heerdeberg the book of Ben Joosten and from that moment on I started my study of the development of the Zimbabwean stone sculpture in the period 1950 – 1980.
Studying the book of Ben Joosten I questioned myself: “Are there any sculptures of sculptors from the first generation in the Beeeldentuin Maastricht-Heerdebeerg?”

Bernard Matemera

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 First of all a sculpture from the late Bernard Matemera. Mrs. José de Goede told me, that Bernard Matemera sculpted twice in her backyard in the Netherlands before his death in 2002. I could not believe that the famous Bernard Matemera, one of the best real Shona sculptors, would sculpt in a backyard in Holland. Mrs. José de Goede assured me that Bernard Matemera was a gentle man, who always kept his word.

Unfortunately he died at a young age (56 years). He was such a remarkable man, that  I will spent more honour to him at a later moment in my stories.
The sculpture from Bernard Matemera in the sculpture garden Beeldentuin Maastricht-Heerdeberg is a self-portrait and for a long time it has been the property of Mrs. José de Goede (Fig. 2)

Fig. 2 Self-portrait, sculpted by Bernard Matemera

If you look at the sculptures from the sculptors of the first generation, then you will see that most of them had a gimmick or a trademark. So didUnnamed image (62) Bernard Matemera. When he sculpted a person, he always sculpted three fingers on each hand and three toes on each foot. That story is not unlikely. I found on the internet that slightly north of Zimbabwe there is an isolated tribe, called the Doma People. Most of them have only two toes, the outer toes. The toes are developed in a V-shape and people called them ostrich-feet. The two toes are caused by a genetic defect.
Bernard Matemera must have been aware  of that and sculpted all his human figures with three fingers and three toes. That is his trademark (Fig. 3).

Fig.3 Family, sculpted by Bernard Matemera (1987)

Fanizani Akuda

Another sculptor from the first generation I  found in the sculpture garden Beeldentuin Maastricht-Heerdeberg was Fanizani Akuda. When Mrs. José de Goede went to Zimbabwe she met Fanizani Akuda and his wife (Fig. 4).

m_Unnamed image (49)Fig. 4 Mrs. José de Goede (right) meets Fanizani Akuda and his wife

Fanizani Akuda always kept his best stones for her, when she met him for buying stones. Unfortunately Fanizani Akuda died on February 5, in 2011.
Fanizane Akuda was born in 1932 in Zambia. In 1946 he went to Zimbabwe for a job. In 1967 he arrived in the Tengenenge Sculptor Community and asked Tom Blomefield for a job. Tom Blomefield gave him the job of digging stones for the sculptors. Some day he asked Fanizani Akuda to try sculpting, but the latter refused because he was afraid that by sculpting small stone splinters would get in his eyes.
After a short time Fanizani Akuda changed his mind and when Tom Blomefield repeated  his offer, he accepted the tools for sculpting. In a short ime he became a successful sculptor (Joosten, 2001:153).

Fanizani Akuda also had a trademark. He had a lot of humour and when he sculpted a person he always sculpted closed eyes. He wanted to illustrate prevention that the person might get  stone splinters in his eyes (fig. 5).

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Fig. 5 Small stones , sculpted by Fanizani Akuda and exhibited in the sculpture garden Beeldentuin Maastricht-Heerdeberg

When Fanizani Akuda grew older he sculpted only small sculptures,  like Whistlers. The mouths of this whistlers were made with a bit and he sculpted blown cheeks (see Fig. 5). I wrote that he had a lot of humour. I read a story he told someone. When you strike with your finger over the mouth of the whistler, then you hear a sound. I tried this with the small whistler in Fig. 5 , but I did not hear a sound. Perhaps I did not strike in the right way.

Edward Chiwawa

Another sculptor from whom you will find sculptures in the sculpture garden Beeldentuin Maastricht – Heerdeberg is Edward Chiwawa. He was  born in Guruve (Zimbabwe) in 1935 and he belongs to the Shona people. He started sculpting in Guruve. He brought his sculptures to  a stand in the Tengenenge Sculptor Community. There was also his four years older nephew Henry Munyaradzi sculpting.  In 1979 the situation in Guruve was dangerous due to the War of Liberation. Edward Chiwawa moved with his family to Harare. He now lives  in Chitungwiza (Joosten, 2001: 175).

I had the opportunity to meet Edward Chiwawa in the sculpture  garden Beeldentuin Maastricht – Heerdeberg, where he sculpted and gave  workshops with his son McCloud (Fig. 6).

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Fig. 6  Edward Chiwawa daily sculpting in the sculpture garden Beeldentuin Maastricht – Heerdeberg

Mrs. José de Goede told me, that every morning at 9.00 am she heard Edward Chiwawa being busy with sculpting and he did not end until 8.00 pm.

Edward Chiwawa had also a trademark. He mostly sculpted  Moon heads, with  the same face. When he made a frame around the sculpture he called it a Sun head, always the same faces. He  also made a complete  ball with that face, and he called it Moon ball.

I bought two small sculptures made by Edward Chiwawa and he was so nice to add his signature under a stone . He was also willing to pose for a photo with me and my wife (Fig. 7)

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Fig. 7 Edward Chiwawa posing with me and my wife.

When I asked Edward Chiwawa  the titles of the stones we just had bought, I thought  he said Moonjets. When I told this to Mrs. José de Goede, she said “Edward doesn’t speak English very well, he means Moon heads”.

Below illustrations of the Sun- and Moon heads from Edward Chiwawa (Fig. 8a + 8b)

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Fig. 8a Edward Chiwawa showing a Moon head

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Fig. 8b Rising Sun Head, sculpted by Edward Chiwawa

Epilogue

So I will end my first impression of the start of my study of the Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture in the period 1950 – 1980. My paperwork will not be scientific, because I am not a scientist. But it will be an expression of my true believe in the development of African Art, especially stone sculpting, in a short period in Zimbabwe.

I will try to find out the  circumstances when this development took place and who were the participants taking  part in this. At the end I hope to get an answer about the question: “Was the Shona stone sculpting in Zimbabwe authentic and what was their value for the Art World”.

As I am prejudiced in favor of a positive answer on this question I will sometimes be  contrary to the common opinions of the scientists about this matter. I hope they do not mind it.

As Ambassador of the sculpture gallery Beeldentuin Maastricht – Heerdenerg I shall not hesitate to stipulate their role in the  development of the Zimbabwean stone sculpture.

Maastricht, February 16, 2015

Pierre Swillens

REFERENCE
Joosten, Ben
2001 Sculptors from Zimbabwe, the first generation, Galerie de Strang,

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