At the Gallery
The National Gallery of Zimbabwe recently conducted a whirlwind tour of Zimbabwe’s major sculptural centres to publicise call to participation for the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) led to a heedfulness in style and mantra that is present in Zimbabwe’s artistic communities.
The chief curator of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Raphael Chikukwa, was at the lead of this outreach, with him describing the Vision of Potraz and the Sculpture Competition Project to artists from different communities.
The outreach visited Chitungwiza Art Centre, Tsindi Gallery, Friends Forever, Ruwa Art Centre and Tafara and Mabvuku Artists’ Association.
The need to deliver a work that fully described the communications organisation vision to be a world class, fair and competitive regulatory environment initiator overseeing universal communication services throughout Zimbabwe was propagated to the sculptors fully.
On the second day of the outreach, Chikukwa visited Tengenenge and Pamvura in Guruve and Mvurwi respectively, where he continued on with the discourse with artists on the call for entries.
The last point of call was Bulawayo, where he engaged the artists there at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, with assistance from his assistant curator, Clifford Zulu, who helped outline the needs and criteria for this competition.
The entire core of the outreach programme facilitated on behalf of Potraz goes back to the identifiers of practice in Zimbabwe, that is, the pprovincial element in the output of sculpture.
It is imperative to point out the fact that this examination situates the artistic practice in Zimbabwe to a much more diverse one.
This has led to the departure in style from the monolithic institution of “Shona Stone Sculpture”, to the diverse and richly illustrative contemporary experimental style.
However, in the negative, the slant to the provincial to a point where practice leads to immeasurable loss of adaptation to art market trends, that is the ultimate extinction of the form.
The Harare, Bulawayo, Mashonaland Central and East styles of sculpture are remarkably diverse in objectivity, wherein artists in Harare are primarily focused on thematic production in stone.
The commercial element of the artworks are largely based in the execution of popular, market friendly sculpture; notably the Mother and Child or family variant.
When compared to Bulawayo, a large part of the community there execute works in wood – predominantly focused on wildlife themes.
Tengenenge bears a spiritualistic approach which can dabble with abstraction and anthropomorphic subjects, hence resultantly, a more unconfirmed aura is prevalent.
The element of provincialism brings to the fore the dynamic of clarity in subjectivity and objectivity.
With regards to object, the secluded centres tend to take refinement over the brutalist figures that are produced by the roadside – their objects are somewhat metaphysically hewn, however there lies a high level of clarity in their executions; an example could be Arthur Fata, working from Friends Forever outside Harare at Ruwa, who produces refined works that are anthropomorphic and semi abstract – with the twist that as the viewer assesses the work, an outright clarity of object emerges.
One may argue that with regards to the abstraction of Sculpture in Zimbabwe, a low contextual value is attained with focus relying on clarity of object.
The culmination of these factors steps back to conformity; the collectivisation of thought lead to the breakdown of independent thinking. In the end, the vacuum for the “fine art” runs risk off completing withering away as higher education institutions shift from the instruction of the latter to New Media and Commercial Art, which ultimately feeds into the heavily commercial practice that dominates the environment in this day.
The Potraz Outdoor Sculpture Competition Call and Outreach thus draws back to an absorbed outlook to the submissions part of the process; with the corporate world and Government making requests for unique, made to measure artwork for their premises, are the artists around Zimbabwe commercially ready to meet the requests that have been made to them?
The Potraz call is open and deadlines for submission for miniatures is on September 21 and the announcement of the winner will be on September 25, 2018.