Tag Archives: henry munyaradzi

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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Sculptors from Zimbabwe (part 2)

9 Mei

Using the owl as symbol

Preface

Jonathan Zilberg PhD attended me on the book Myth and Magic, The Art of the Shona of Zimbabwe, written by Joy Kuhn and published in 1978. It is one of the first publications of books about the Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture, starting in the 60s and 70s [Note 1].

Myth and Magic. The Art of the Shona of Zimbabwe

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I searched on the Internet for this book and I found a used copy of this book for an acceptable price (Fig 1), from someone in Scotland. When I received it, I discovered that it looks and smells like an old book. Despite this I am very delighted with the book.
Joy Kuhn is not a professional art scientist, but she has had spent a substantial part of her life in Central and South Africa. The book contains a lot of photos of sculptors in the late 60s and early 70s. Unfortunately, in the book, she mentioned the names of the sculptors in the manner they were used at that time, i.e. only by first name. In the case of ‘Henry’ it is not a problem. She meant the late Henry Munyaradzi. But the reference of the artist’s name ‘Ndale’ arises some questions. By looking it up in the lexicon Sculptors from Zimbabwe by Ben Joosten (2001) I found out that the sculpture belongs to the late Ndale Wile, a Malawian, who sculpted at the Tengenenge Sculptor Community.

Likewise, the sculptor’s name ‘Matere’ or ‘Matera’ may not be known instantly. This name belongs to the sculptor Bernard Matemera. Even Bernard Matera used that name in this period, unless it is a misspelling from Joy Kuhn. She also didn’t mention the year in which the sculptures were produced.

In spite of these minor objections the book is useful, because she interviewed a lot of sculptors from the first generation. In this way we get an insight in the beliefs, motivation and thoughts of the sculptors during the sculpting.

 

Fig. 1 Cover of the book Myth and Magic

Using owls as a symbol in sculpting

Joy Kuhn talked to the, meanwhile, deceased Bernard Takawira. He explained to her how animals can influence sculptors in their work.
Bernard Takawira was a member of the Nyatate sculptor group around Joram Mariga. His brothers John, Patrick and Lazarus were also sculptors.  Bernard Takawira was born in 1948 and belongs to the Shona people. He was one of the twenty-four children in his family.
He followed the primary and the secondary school and received a degree in agriculture at the Mlezu Agricultural College.
He saw his older brother John carving in stone.  In 1968 he started sculpting himself. Frank McEwen, Director of the Rhodes National Gallery, saw his pieces of art and convinced him that he would be a good sculptor (Joosten 2001, 134)

Bernard Takawira told Joy Kuhn:

Owls, though, the Shona fear them. They are always associated with witchcraft. For we believe that women, in particular, can be transformed into animals –   then creep into your house  and sit on you, so you wake up feeling sick. First the owl – then, the hyena, then the ant-eater, then, the bat. If the mongoose crosses your path  you know that where you are going things are not right. It is better, then, to go home. And if you see a chameleon digging, it is bad; you will get sad news, particularly about death…..(Kuhn 1978, 14) [Note 2].

Ephraim Chiruka

The sculptor on the cover of the book Myth and Magic, is Ephraim Chiruka (see Fig. 1). He called his sculpture a Huge Owl [Note 3]. He was a nephew of Chimbewere, the Chief whose spirit guards the sculpture village of Tengenenge (Kuhn 1978, cover).

Ephraim Chiruka says about the stone

She – this woman – is changing into an owl. Your mind goes like that if you are carving stones…(Kuhn 1978, 49)

Ephraim Chiruka provided his sculpture with women’s breasts. The breasts of a witch, he said.

He was born in 1940 in the Guruve area and belongs to the Shona people.  He started sculpting in 1966 in the Tengenenge Sculptor Community. His favourite theme was horses, because they reminded him of old people who use horses for transport to move their goods from one place to another (Joosten 2001, 165/166).

The  Huge Owl was not the only owl which Ephraim Chiruka sculpted. He carved a bewitched owl as well which he called Owl Woman (Fig. 2).

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Fig. 2 Owl Woman, sculpted in 1969 by Ephraim Chiruka (Joosten 2001, 167)

And he sculpted also a normal owl (Fig. 3)

scannen0005-cs2Fig. 3 Owl, sculpted by Ephraim Chiruka, year of production unknown (Kuhn 1978, 58).


Henry Munyaradzi

There are also owls carved without signs of the spirits of witchcraft, like the owl of Henry Munyaradzi. This is rather an elegant sculpture of an owl. Unfortunately, the year of production is not known.
Henry Munyaradzi was born in 1931 in the Guruve district. He belonged to the Shona people. His father left the family when Henry was a young child, so Henry got no formal education.
He raised up in the family of his nephew Edward Chiwawa. As a youth Henry herded cattle. In 1968/1969 he started sculpting in Tengenenge. He is auto didactic and became successful immediately.
In 1975, due to the Liberation War, it became too dangerous in Tengenenge. Henry moved with his family to Chitungwiza.
In 1985 he bought a farm in Ruwa, east of Harare, where he died in 1998 (Joosten 2001, 283).

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Fig. 4 Owl sculpted by Henry Munyaradzi (Kuhn 1978, 59)

Edward Chiwawa

Edward Chiwawa was born in 1935 in the Guruve district. He belongs to the Shona people. He is a nephew of Henry Munyaradzi. He saw his nephew during the act of sculpting. He started sculpting himself in Guruve in 1970. He was taught by Wilson Chikawa. He brought his sculptures to Tengenenge to sell them.
In 1975, due to the Liberation War, Tengenenge was closed and in Guruve it became too dangerous, so Edward moved with his family to Harare, to join Tom Blomefield. After the war ended Edward did not return to Guruve. He now lives in Chitungwiza and is still sculpting (Joosten 2001, 175/176).
In my first  paper Sculptors from Zimbabwe (part 1), I mentioned that I met Edward Chiwawa last year in the sculpture garden Beeldentuin Maastricht – Heerdeberg in the Netherlands. Around 1988 he sculpted an owl (Fig. 5). This owl has been exposed in the collection of the Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal, the Netherlands.

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Fig. 5 Owl, sculpted by Edward Chiwawa, c 1988, (Joosten 2001, 177)

Dofe Khoreya
Another owl is the owl sculpted by the sculptress Dofe Khoreya (Fig. 6).This is an owl in modern art, totally abstract. The owl is recognizable by the beak. The year of production is about 1968. The sculpture belongs to the collection of the Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal , the Netherlands.
I don’t know what the sculptress wants to express with the holes in her piece of art. My interpretation is that both the upper holes are wings and the lower holes are paws. Has someone got another idea of the meaning of these holes? A hiding place for spirits could also be a possibility.
Dofe Khoreya was born about 1939 in Malawi. She married Bauden Khoreya, also a successful sculptor. They have one son Harry, who is also a sculptor. Bauden and Dofe started in 1968 with sculpting in Tengenenge. Dofe was one of the few women, who sculpted. In that time sculptors thought that women could only help by polishing the sculptures men produced. The family lived in the Tengenenge Sculptor Community until 1976 (Joosten 2001, 212-215).

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Fig. 6 Owl, sculpted by Dofe Khoreya, c 1968, (Joosten 2001, 214)

Moveti Manzi

Moveti Manzi is a sculptor of the second generation. He was born on the first of January 1960 in Centenary. His father Josiah Manzi was also a successful sculptor. The parents of Josiah Manzi moved from Malawi  to Zimbabwe in 1918. His mother Jenet Manzi is a sculptress.
Josiah started sculpting in the Tengenenge Sculptor Community in 1966, Jenet started there in 1968.
Josiah sculpted print stones as well. So did Moveti Manzi when he was a boy. In 1997 three print stones were found in the mud in Tengenenge, two belonged to Josiah, and one to Moveti. The last one is saved in the Tengenenge Museum in Dodewaard, the Netherlands (Joosten 2001, 338).
From Moveti Manzi an owl is exhibited for selling in the sculptor garden Beeldentuin Maastricht – Heerdeberg, the Netherlands (Fig. 7).

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Fig. 7 Owl, sculpted by Moveti  Manzi, photo: Pierre Swillens

Epilogue

Jonathan Zilberg devoted in his dissertation, as mentioned in note 1, a chapter on “Spirits in Stones” referring to the belief in spirits of the Shona People. He cited Joy Kuhn’s book Myth and Magic, when she expressed, after interviews with the sculptors Sylvester Mubayi, Nicholas Mukomberanwa and Joseph Ndandarika, their belief  in spirits. They stipulated that they converted this belief in their stones (Zilberg 1996, 167 – 176).

Shona sculptors feared the spirits of animals, like the owl, the hyena, the ant-eater and the bat. Especially the spirits of the owls, who – according to them – practiced their witchcraft on women.

In Athens the Greece people endowed the owl with wisdom, the Shona in Zimbabwe endowed it with witchcraft.

Maastricht, march 16,  2015

Pierre Swillens

Notes

1. Jonathan Zilberg received his doctorate of Philosophy in Anthropology in 1996 in the Graduate College of the University  of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with the dissertation Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture. The Invention of a Shona Tradition. Before and afterwards he wrote many publications about this subject. He is one of the few scientists who made their publications fully accessible for everyone.

2. Olga Sicilia found this aspect so important that she cites this passage out of Kun’s book in her dissertation There is No Such Thing As a Spirit in the Stone. , Misrepresentation of Zimbabwean Stone (Sicilia 2009, 96).

3. The titles given to sculptures are often arbitrary, are often made up by dealers or writers. The artists themselves can change the names  of the titles depending on whatever they think that the buyer or photographer wants to hear (communication Zilberg).

 Cited References

Joosten, Ben
2001 Sculptors from Zimbabwe, the first generation, Galerie de Strang, Dodewaard, the Netherlands
Kuhn, Joy
1978 Myth and Magic, The Art of the Shona of Zimbabwe, Don Nelson, Cape Town
Sicilia, Olga
2009 There is No Such Thing As a Spirit in the Stone, Misrepresentation of Zimbabwean Stone (diss.)
Zilberg, Jonathan
1996 Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture, The Invention of a Shona Tradition (diss.)

Sculptors from Zimbabwe (deel 5)

17 Sep

the first generation

Henry Munyaradzi

Inleiding

Wanneer je op internet iets leest over de Afrikaanse beeldhouwers in steen uit Zimbabwe, behorend tot ‘the first generation’ , dan wordt Henry Munyaradzi in een adem genoemd met Bernard Matemera, als behoiend tot de belangrijkste kunstenaars.
Bernard Matemera heb ik behandeld in de weblog ‘Sculptors from Zimbabwwe (deel 2)’. Het lijkt mij nu nuttig om de beurt te geven aan Henry Munyaradzi.

Necrologie van Henry Munyaradzi

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Henry Munyaradzi werd ook wel Henry Mzengerere genoemd, maar hij werd nog beter bekend onder de simpele naam Henry. Hiervan kreeg ik een bevestiging toen ik onlangs in de beeldentuin Maastricht-Heerdeberg sprak met McCloud Chiwawa. McCloud is de zoon van Edward Chiwawa, die momenteel ook in de beeldentuin aanwezig is.
Toen ik met McCloud sprak over Henry, toen wist hij precies waar ik over sprak. Henry was een neef van zijn vader en in het gezin van zijn vader opgegroeid.

Henry Munyaraqdzi was geboren in 1931 in Guruve in het noorden van Zimbabwe. Hij behoorde tot de Korekore stam. Zijn vader was een ‘spirit medium’ en hield zich dus bezig met de geesten van de voorvaderen. Hij bekommerde zich minder om zijn gezin en verliet dit toen Heny Munyaradzi nog jong was.
Door dit alles ging Henry Munyaradzi niet naar school en bracht hij zijn jeugd door met het hoeden van vee en het jagen op wild met honden, speer en pijl en boog.
Hij werd opgenomen in het gezin van zijn neef Edward Chiwawa. Toen hij ging werken, nam hij alles aan, zoals landarbeider, smid, timmerman en arbeider op een tabaksplantage.
Hij was inmiddels getrouwd en kreeg in totaal negen kinderen.

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Toen hij in 1967 werkloos was, kwam hij in Tengenenge terecht en hij kwam daar voor het eerst in aanraking met het beeldhouwen in steen. Hij hoorde de kunstenaars kappen en raakte daardoor gefascineerd Tom Blomefield, waarover ik in een eerdere weblog reeds sprak, zag wel iets in hem en gaf hem een kans om zich aan te sluiten bij de Tengenenge Sculptor Community.
Henry Munyaradzi ging voortvarend aan de slag,  werkte volledig op zichzelf en slaagde erin om  op korte termijn een faam als kunstenaar te verwerven. In 1968 kreeg hij al een tentoonstelling van zijn werk in de National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

Henry Munyaradzi bleef tot 1975 in Tengenenge tot de grond onder zijn voeten daar te heet werd door de woedende burgeroorlog tussen het regeringsleger en twee Afrikaanse bevrijdingslegers. Hij vertrok met zijn gezin naar Chitungwiza waar ook zijn neef Edward Chiwawa en Faizani Akuda waren neergestreken.

Na het beëindigen van de oorlog in 1980 keerde hij niet terug naar Tengenenge. Wel kocht hij in 1985 een boerderij in Ruwa, alwaar hij tot zijn dood in 1998 verbleef.

Werken van Henry Munyaradzi

In de beginjaren van zijn carrière beperkte Henry Munyaradzi zich tot het kappen van kleinere beelden met ronde vormen. Hij gebruikte veel zwarte serpentijnsteen en werkte zijn beelden volledig af (zie foto A).
Over het algemeen kapte hij beelden met weinig details. Het was alsof vorm en expressie moest uitdragen, wat hij met het beeld bedoelde.
In 1986 kapte hij een groot beeld in ‘springstone’ (zie foto C).

Later ging Henry Munyaradzi over tot het gebruik van plattere stenen, waarbij hij de vorm van de steen meestal intact liet. Bovendien kapte hij met incisies en weinig details. Hij werd dan ook vergeleken met het werk van Paul Klee, ofschoon hij nooit van deze gehoord zal hebben (zie foto B).

Epiloog

Henry Munyaradzi is een duidelijke exponent van de Shona cultuur. Ongeschoold met een moeilijke jeugd en allerlei baantjes slaagt hij erin om, volkomen autodidactisch, een gerespecteerd kunstenaar te worden binnen ‘the first generation’ van beeldhouwers in steen in Zimbabwe.

Pierre Swillens

De foto’s A, B en C zijn gescand uit het boek ‘Sculptors from Zimbabwe’, geschreven door Ben Joosten.

Foto A

Henry Munyaradzi aan het begin van zijn carrière (1972).

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Foto B
Henry Munyaradzi op latere leeftijd met het beeld ‘the wedding of the astronauts’ (1994).

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Foto C
Heny Munyaradzi maakt dit beeld ‘Mhondoro -great lion spirit’ in 1986. Het gebruikte materiaal is het harde ‘springstone’. Het beeld maakt nu deel uit van de collectie in Chapungu Sculpture Park in Harare.

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Fotogalerij