THE Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on stone sculptors who sell their products at Mawabeni Art Centre in Esigodini along the Bulawayo-Beitbridge Highway.
Sculptors who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com this weekend said since the inception of Covid-19 induced lockdown nearly two years ago, the business had remained subdued.
The artists lamented that the restrictions on international travel had dealt them a major blow as foreign visitors used to be their main clientele.
A fine art sculptor, Limit Muchini said the decline in tourists arrival in the country had adversely affected business as the majority of local people do not appreciate the value of sculpture.
"Most of our clients used to be white South Africans travelling from either Bulawayo or Beitbridge. Now following the advent of Covid-19, it is now very difficult to get clients. The whole of last year and this year there is no business and most of the sculptors have now gone into illegal gold panning," said Muchini who specialises in the sculpting of the big five animals.
He said during the lockdown, it was also difficult to transport special sculpting stones from Mashava to Bulawayo.
"The stones which we use to make our sculptors are only found in Mashava in Masvingo. As a result of the lockdowns, there was no transport to ferry the stones from Mashava to Bulawayo.
"There is no business in Mashava and that is why we prefer to do our carvings in Bulawayo where business used to be brisk before Covid-19."
The sculptors use soap, serpentine and mega stones in their carvings.
Another sculptor Rumbidzai Moyo implored the government to assist them with rescue financial packages.
"We are appealing to the government to assist us with funds to restart our businesses after going out of business for such a long time. Our business is as critical as the rest of the tourism sector," said Moyo.
He also called upon the government to enact favourable laws that are attractive to tourists.
"Some tourists are failing to purchase our products because of the high duty charges. They say the charges are exorbitant and they end up paying duty which is twice the price they would have bought the product," he said.
Fine art sculptor Timothy Sandu said their plight had been worsened by the fact the local people were failing to support the artists as they too were struggling to survive.
"We pay $1 000 to the Umzingwane Rural District Council every month. We need also have to pay monthly rates at places we rent. If things continue like this, I might consider relocating to my rural home in Mberengwa," Sandu added.