071_Global12_InFocus_Zimbabwe

Global 13

In FocusZimbabwe Sculpture of the People of the Mist Credit: © Under The Radar Films Ltd. The film looks at Mugabe’s 32 years in power overarching priorities: economic independ- ence; control of natural resources; the chang- ing nature of imperialism and the dangers of international aid, which is “never really assist- The Shona are the oldest ethnic group in ZImbabwe ance to get us to industrialise and therefore be economically independent. If they made us In Zimbabwe, the Shona people are traditionally special ancestral spirit who manifested in economically independent, they would not known as “the People of the Mist”, since dreams. The heritage, particularly of dream have this lever to control us to their advantage.” they once inhabited the mist-shrouded inspiration, is embedded in the work of He is nostalgic for the leaders of his gen- Inyanga Mountains, from whose stone their modern Shona sculptors, though theirs is eration. “What we have are leaders who de- descendants have been creating extraordinary clearly no longer for functional purposes. pend more on the West to run their countries sculpture over the last 55 years or so. The present art movement surged into rather than depend on their own people and The oldest ethnic group in the country, Shona public consciousness in the early 1960s on real cooperation and partnership within are the legendary guardians of King Solomon’s with the encouragement of Frank McEwen, their own regions to build their economies mines. The essence of their misty land and its the first director of the National Gallery in and make them sound.” spiritual world is deep within their psyche and Harare. Sculptors formed a workshop at the Evil dictator or man of principle? In the still relevant. The belief is that each one of the gallery, selling their work there, and fairly flesh, Mugabe was “living history,” says rocks on the Inyanga slopes contains a spirit soon began to exhibit abroad. Major artists Agyemang. “When you strip through the lay- unique to that stone. They are wonderfully who made their mark at the Gallery Workshop ers of security, you see a man who is quite or- varied in colour, like mauve lapidolite, leopard include Joram Mariga, John Takawira, Joseph dinary – an old man now – quite humble, very rock, semi-precious green verdite, and the Ndandarika, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, and witty, who can communicate with people on black, hard serpentine and springstone. Thomas Mukarobgwa. different levels – old, young, black, white.” As an exhibition review in a London Now, a second generation of urban artists Mugabe has been in power 32 years, yet newspaper put it recently, “Shona sculpture has gained recognition, based in Harare or he has failed to groom a successor and there is of world quality, extracting the individual establishing themselves in Europe. These are doubts whether people still share the same spirit of the stone.” In 1988,Newsweek include Gedion Nyanhongo, Joe Mutasa dream, the film comments. There is a fear magazine went as far as saying that “Shona and many more. Just as their forbears did, among Mugabe’s supporters that they may lose sculpture is perhaps the most important contemporary Zimbabwean sculptors usually control of their country to neocolonial forces art form to emerge from Africa this century. begin their work with inspiration from a dream intent on controlling its natural resources. Prince Charles has become a collector. or daydream/meditation, carving natural “The feeling among MDC supporters,” Richard Attenborough (the film director) came or mythical forms. The spiritual pantheon says Agyemang, “was that the old man to Zimbabwe and before leaving, shipped 29 includes the fertility and rain god,Mwari, and has got to go, but deep down he makes crates of Shona pieces home.” many other spirits inhabiting nature. The inner us proud. He’s eloquent, he’s educated us, Both historic and modern sculptors have vision is transfused with calm, considered but sometimes it’s the people around him created images of the Bateleur eagle, action into the stone, until the ‘thought’ or we don’t agree with. So if he can’t control Chapungu, a sacred messenger, which inspiration is apparent there, in harmony with them, he has to go.”● became a powerful national symbol during the spirit of the stone. Zimbabwe’s independence. In the past, a Alexa Dalby is a journalist specialising in film, member of each Shona family was amuvesi Juliet Highet is an author and photographer African business, culture and cinema or carver, empowered by a mudzimu, a on travel, the arts and culture globalfirst quarter 2013 www.global-briefing.org l71


Global 13
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