The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Roadside 'Studios' Hold Their Own

Zimbabwe has an old and historic tradition of art and sculpture, right from the Zimbabwe Birds of Great Zimbabwe to present time, the people have kept the tradition alive with innovation and hard work.

Traditionally, the medium of sculpture has been stone, as per Wikipedia, one is always aware of the stone's contribution in the finished sculpture and it is indeed fortunate that in Zimbabwe a magnificent range of stones are available from which to choose: hard black springstone, richly coloured serpentine and soapstone, firm grey limestone and semi-precious verdite and lepidolite.

However, the metal sculpture came of age in Zimbabwe in the last two centuries, and now it has developed its own form, format and expression which is indigenous and unique and can compete internationally if sponsored at Governmental level.

The roadsides of Harare and Bulawayo have become open-air sculpture studios which could challenge the likes of those cushy and sophisticated art galleries in the West like Paris. But can this talent be harnessed to patronise the budding artists and earn the much needed foreign exchange?

Next year's World Tourism Indaba in Victoria Falls could be an appropriate stage to launch Zimbabwean art at a global level.

For this particular feature, we have picked one of the most dynamic, interesting and humane roadside artists of Harare, Mr Suraji. Suraji comes from an artistic family who mainly used stone for expression, but as he grew into a more mature and independent artist, he shifted from stone to metal.

His journey in art spans a lifetime now with almost entire life spent in refining his skills and improving his art work. Suraji specialises in almost lifesize sculpture by using recyclable material like old oil drums, metal sheets and what not. On one side he is doing recycling of discarded materials which is an environmental bonus and on the other side he is producing master pieces with expression of art unlimited.

His open air road side studio in Greystone Park boasts lifesize elephants, horses in action, the big five and a rastaman on a motor bike and a host of others.

Being an ardent lover of President Mugabe's leadership and humane qualities, Suraji has exclusively built a crocodile sculpture (being the President's totem, Gushungo) with a hope that one day the President will honour him by stopping at his Greystone Park open-air studio and give him a pat on the back.

Suraji believes in art in action and his metal sculptures truly speak for themselves, right from collecting pieces of scrap, all the way through the process of forming the basic frame as well as welding of these pieces up to final touches which make these remarkable pieces come alive, Suraji does everything with a touch of class.

He has a fully mature artist in his lovely soul and probably needs some recognition and patronage at Governmental level to take his art to international levels.

Some of his art work is being shown here in this article to give the readers an idea of the labour and hard work done by these Zimbabwean sons who have the potential to grow into world class artists in their own Zimbabwean style.

Sitting under the shade of a tree in his open-air studio, Suraji chats with his assistants and friends over a simple plate of sadza and spinach, contemplating his future projects and working through the hot sunny summers of Harare or the chilly evenings of the winter season, with his eyes gazing across the horizon waiting for his beloved President to stop over along the road side on his way to Helensvale and pat him with few kind words.

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