Archief | augustus, 2015

The man who sculpted twice at a stone

14 Aug

Henry Munyaradzi, sculptor from the first generation

Sculptors from Zimbabwe, the first generation
In 2001 the late Ben Joosten published a book Sculptors from Zimbabwe. This book is a lexicon of the sculptors from the first generation.
Ben Joosten started his research for the book in 1992. He travelled several times to Zimbabwe to speak with the sculptors and to take  pictures of their sculptures. In this way  he met Henry Munyaradzi in 1994 at his home in Ruwa. Henry had just finished a sculpture, which he called: ‘The wedding of the astronauts’ (see Fig. 1).

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Fig. 1 The wedding of the astronauts, sculpted by Henry Munyaradzi (Joosten, 2001: 283)

When you observe  the sculpture, you will see that Henry respected the shape of the stone. He carved minimalistic with incisions in geometric figures. His style looks like the works of Paul Klee, the German of whom Henry Munyaradzi has never had heard.
The faces at the bottom resemble the sculpture Spade Head, sculpted by Henry in 1974.

Description of Henry Munyaradzi

Henry Munyaradzi was born in 1931 in Guruve in the North of Zimbabwe. His father was a spirital medium and left the family when Henry was young. That´s why he was raised  in the family of his nephew Edward Chiwawa and attended  no formal education.
In his youth he herded cattle and hunted  small animals with dogs, spears, bows and arrows. As he grew  older he had a job as a blacksmith and later on as a carpenter and a tobacco-grader. After  he became unemployed  he stumbled across the Tengenenge Sculptor Community in 1967 where  he heard the stone carvers. He thought that he was also capable of doing that and when he met Tom Blomefield he was allowed to try carving.
Henry Munyaradzi was entirely self-taught and became a successful sculptor. Already in 1968 the National Gallery bought a sculpture from him for their collection.
In 1975 he left Tengenenge and went to Chitungwiza where his nephew Edward Chiwawa and Fanizani Akuda lived and sculpted. The situation in Tengenenge got too dangerous during the Liberation War.

After Independence Day in 1980 he did not return to Tengenenge. In 1985 he bought a farm in Ruwa, where he sculpted until his death in 1998.

The Astronaut’s Wedding

Surfing on the internet I saw a picture on Flickr with a sculpture from Henry Munyaradzi, which was called: ‘The Astronaut’s Wedding’ and was sculpted in 1983 (see Fig. 2).

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Fig. 2 The Astronaut’s Wedding, sculpted by Henry Munyaradzi, 1983.

I saw a creation  with the same shape as the sculpture called: ‘The wedding of the astronauts’, but just sculpted at the reverse side.
The photograph was taken in 2007 at the Missouri Botanic Garden, during the exhibition “Chapungu: Nature, Man and Myth”. In my opinion the sculptures ‘The wedding of the astronauts’ and ‘The astronaut’s wedding’ were made on the same stone.

 A unique three-sided sculpture

In order to be convinced I contacted the Missouri Botanic Garden and one of their employees sent me an e-mail with a picture of  the sculpture with the 1994-side. The description of the sculpture´s title  was ‘The Astronaut’s Wedding’ and the year of completion  was 1983.

The employee wrote:
“Meaning: Married on Earth we now explore space together. Note: This sculpture is a unique 3-sided sculpture. The wedding is depicted on one side with blessings indicated by the birds; the preacher is on the narrow side; and the back depicts the couple in a space capsule exploring the heavens”.

This means she describes the 1994-side as the blessings and the 1983-side as the couple, exploring the space.

Typical questions

  1. What was Henry’s intention to sculpt twice at the same stone?
  2. Why was the 1983-side called ‘The Astronaut’s Wedding’ and the 1994-side ‘The wedding of the astronauts’. Had Henry forgotten the original name?
  3. Was the sculpture the property of Henry during the years 1983 until 1994? In 1985 he moved from Chitungwiza to Ruwa. It is sure that the sculpture completed after 1994 was added to the collection of the Chapungu Sculpture Park in Harare (Joosten, 2001:283).
  4. Was the employee of the Missouri Botanic Garden aware that Henry sculpted twice at the sculpture? She describes the year of completion as 1983.

Epilogue 

The employee of the Missouri Botanic Garden describes the 1994-side as the blessings indicated by the birds. Obviously she interprets the circle with the cross as a bird. It is not known whether  this was  also Henry’s intention.
In 1972 he sculpted a small statue , which he called: ‘The Astronaut’ (see Fig. 3).

 

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Fig. 3 The Astronaut, sculpted by Henry Munyaradzi, 1972

On this sculpture the same figure of the circle with the cross is applied. I assume  that Henry sculpted a half-moon and a star on this sculpture. Therefore , I think that Henry misguides the viewer by sculpting stars  on the 1994-side  and not birds. What Henry intended with the 1994-side, we will probably never know because of the fact that he died without giving any written information about the meaning of this work of art.

Maastricht, August 2015

Pierre Swillens

Referenced cite:

Joosten, Ben
2001 Sculptors from Zimbabwe, the first generation. Galerie de Strang, Dodewaard, The Netherlands

 

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