Shona sculptures on display

2009-11-28 00:00

“SPIRIT in the Stone”, an outdoor exhibition of more than 150 original, hand-carved stone sculptures from Zimbabwe, opened in the Durban Botanic Gardens yesterday.

For one month only, visitors will be able to see these wonderful Shona sculptures, curated by SimArt.

“We have found that the work is enormously appealing to everyone — not just art lovers. The natural lighting sets the sculptures off in a way that can’t be achieved in a gallery, and an outdoor venue makes the art more accessible and appealing to all ages,” says Canadian-based ZimArt owner-curator Fran Fearnley, who, along with associate curator Biggie Chikodzi, will be available throughout the exhibition to answer visitors’ questions and to offer tours.

Although Shona sculpture has become popular in many parts of the world, South Africans rarely have the opportunity to see the best work because it is usually destined for galleries overseas before gaining local or regional exposure.

“Spirit in the Stone” will showcase a dynamic selection of sculptures, in a range of sizes and stones, created by artists ZimArt has been representing in Canada over the past decade.

A feature of ZimArt’s exhibitions is to involve an artist on site. This is enormously appealing for visitors who can see a work in progress, handle the tools and the raw stone and gain firsthand knowledge of how the work is created.

Singi Chihota is the artist-in-residence for 2009 and will be on site during “Spirit in the Stone”. Chihota recently returned from two successful months in Canada where he was the featured artist in two major exhibitions and led three sculpting workshops.

Chihota, who was born in 1975 in Centenary District of Zimbabwe, started carving at the age of 12 and acknowledges his father, Luke Chihota, a basket weaver and stone sculptor, as his first mentor and the man who taught him that sculpting is a contemplative process which should not be rushed. He finds inspiration in daily life, the spirit world and nature.

The Botanic Gardens, which this month celebrates 160 years of serving the people of Durban, is increasingly being used as an alfresco gallery to showcase art in a perfect natural surrounding. Most recently the gardens hosted the British Council’s Rivers of the World exhibition from June to November this year.

Chris Dalzell, curator of the Durban Botanic Gardens, said: “It is a great honour for Durban Botanic Gardens to host for the first time work by Zimbabwean stone sculptors, which has become very popular within botanic gardens worldwide. We hope that the public will visit and respect these sculptures and enjoy the wonderful artworks of these talented artists.”

The gardens are open seven days a week. Entry is free and all are welcome. School groups are encouraged to contact Martin Clement at 031 309 1170. For more information about ZimArt, visit www.zimart.ca

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