IT was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s Late Iron Age. Construction on the monument by ancestors of the Shona people began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century.
The sculptured walls and other artifacts found at the Great Zimbabwe site signify that sculpture art occupied an imperishable position in the country’s values and cultural systems.
One then wonders why sculpture art appears more to be a preserve of the international community. Why is it most of the Zimbabweans of this age are not incorporating sculptures into their cultural value systems? Who shall resurrect this important arm of the creative industry?
Nhamo Chamutsa, a sculptor with Chapungu Art Gallery observed that only a long term culture preservation system can save the art from extinction.
“Lack of effective and consistent Government support is a major contributor, which has incapacitated sculptors to pass on the tradition from one generation to the other. It has now become the trend that officials appointed to portfolios in departments like the Ministry of Arts and Culture are drawn from the music sector or the sporting fraternity.
“This prompts more attention to be paid to music and sport at the expense of other important artistry works such as sculpting, which is rooted in the origins of this country.
“Poor art curricula being taught at various institutions in the country has also negatively impacted on the evolvement of fully-fledged artists who can contribute meaningfully to the arts industry,” said Chamutsa.
Chamutsa also highlights that religious barriers have negatively impacted on the appreciation of sculpture art since most people view stone works as goblins that house ritualised spirits.
Another sculptor, Luke Saidi notes that the challenges faced in sculpting are a result of poor political ties with the international community.
“There used to be lucrative business from Western buyers and this motivated the local players to remain on track. Currently there is nothing on the ground to inspire the players in the sector,” said Saidi.
Sam Nyaude, a Hatfield-based sculptor bemoaned the lack of a coherent cultural policy, which encompasses all categories of art in Zimbabwe despite having attained independence 36 years ago.
“There is need for wider consultation in the drafting of a cultural policy for it to be relevant. On the other hand this is just a case of poor organisation by the artists themselves. The shocking reality is that there isn’t any collective approach to deal with the issues affecting us. Most of the artists choose to operate individually.
“Organisations such as the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe are also answerable because they are not doing enough to reflect the artistic diversity of the country. Much focus is on performing artists, even when they take artists to international markets they rarely prioritise sculptors”
Nyaude also blamed the perpetual referral and honour to well-known artists and not affording other upcoming artists the limelight to be noticed.
“Organisers of awards such as the National Arts Merit Awards must also set categories of the upcoming artists just to reinforce the existence of sculpture,” added Nyaude.