1 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Mukomberanwa's Works Remembered

In art, good works do not die but live forever. This is true to the late Nicholas Mukomberanwa, one of the country's most notable figures in stone sculpturing. The National Gallery of Zimbabwe, in partnership with the Mukomberanwa Family and Chapungu Sculpture Park, paid homage to Mukomberanwa with a retrospective exhibition.

The three-month show, which started on November 21, ends on January 21.

On display are more than 20 pieces and original drawings that present a comprehensive overview of Mukomberanwa's work from the 1950s up until the time he breathed his last in 2002.

Hailing from the rural district of Buhera, Mukomberanwa was born Obert Matafi to Maraika and his second wife Chihute in 1940.

He changed his name to Nicholas at the age of 18 years when he was baptised in the Catholic Church at St Benedicts Mission.

The man worked tirelessly to perfect his trade, a testament to the drive and passion he felt towards the art of sculpting.

Accompanying the exhibition are original testimonial essays written by his son, Lawrence Ndinga Mukomberanwa.

Lawrence made the show a success by involving the Mukomberanwa family, the exhibition curator, Raphael Chikukwa and the gallery's executive director Doreen Sibanda.

Despite his national and international acclaim, Mukomberanwa never failed to acknowledge the influence of his humble upbringing, coupled with a structured art education at Serima Mission School.

Serima is where he learnt to sculpt under the tutelage of a Swiss priest, Father Groeber, alongside Gabriel Hatungari, who still lives and sculpts in Masvingo.

"His generation includes other stone visionaries such as Sylvester Mubayi, Joram Mariga, Henry Munyaradzi and Bernard Matemera, to mention but a few," Chikukwa said.

Mukomberanwa brought together the folklore symbols of his cultural identity with the abstract style of his imagination.

In 1961, he left Serima Mission to become a policeman in Harare and continued to sculpt up until 1963 when he was selected to join the National Gallery of Rhodesia's Workshop School.

He paraded his sculptures the world over in a number of shows including the 1987 exhibitions held at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Zuva Gallery, and Scottsdale, Arizona in the United States.

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