Sculp­tor Mubayi goes in­ter­na­tional:

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Review -

SYLVESTER Mubayi is a vet­eran in the vis­ual art in­dus­try with a ca­reer span­ning over five decades.

He is a men­tor with Friends For­ever artists, and de­lib­er­ately so, he pri­ori­tises giv­ing sup­port and in­spi­ra­tion to the most tal­ented younger artists in his field, the stone sculp­ture of Zim­babwe.

His pieces, which are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of lo­cal spir­i­tual prac­tices, wildlife, hu­man­ity and so­cio- cul­tural re­la­tions are not just daz­zling to the eye but are also laden with mean­ing.

This year he was se­lected to be­come one of the artists that rep­re­sented Zim­babwe in the 57th Venice Bi­en­nale a pres­ti­gious cul­tural plat­form which at­tracts artists, cu­ra­tors, art col­lec­tors, art crit­ics and di­rec­tors from across the globe. Es­tab­lished in 1895, the Bi­en­nale has an at­ten­dance to­day of over 500,000 vis­i­tors at the Art Ex­hi­bi­tion.

The his­tory of the Venice Bi­en­nale dates back from 1895, when the first In­ter­na­tional Art Ex­hi­bi­tion was or­gan­ised.

Zim­babwe through the sup­port of our Ministry has been able to con­sis­tently par­tic­i­pate on this plat­form since its first show­ing in 2011.

This week sculpt­ing Icon, Sylvester Mubayi shared with us his ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing at the 57th edi­tion of the Venice Bi­en­nale.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence of trav­el­ing to Venice and hav­ing my work ex­posed to art ap­pre­ci­a­tors and col­lec­tors from all over the world was an amaz­ing one.

“I got to wit­ness art from all over the world which was unique in its own way as it ex­pressed the way of life and way of do­ing things from dif­fer­ent na­tions. I vis­ited pavil­ions of other African coun­tries; Nige­ria (which has made its de­but at the Bi­en­nale for the first time in his­tory), Kenya, An­gola and South Africa. These vis­its in­spired me as an artist to fur­ther de­velop and en­hance the kind of work that I pro­duce.

“We also had a large num­ber of peo­ple com­ing in to view and in­ter­act with our work and this made all the work and ef­fort we put in pre­par­ing for the Pav­il­ion worth it,” said Mubayi

He added, “I would like to ex­tend my grat­i­tude to the Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor at the Na­tional Gallery of Zim­babwe, Mrs Doreen Sibanda and the Deputy Direc­tor Mr Raphael Chikukwa for af­ford­ing me with such an op­por­tu­nity.

“I was shocked when I re­ceived the news that I had been se­lected to go to the Venice Bi­en­nale and rep­re­sent the coun­try at an in­ter­na­tional level. I am also grate­ful to my fel­low artists who were with me in Venice as we were able to cre­ate amaz­ing works that at­tracted and are still at­tract­ing wide va­ri­ety of vis­i­tors to the Zim­bab­wean Pav­il­ion.”

Mubayi gave us an in­sight into some of the work that he was com­mis­sioned to do for the Zim­bab­wean Pav­il­ion in Venice project.

“My work is about the peo­ple of Zim­babwe, their rit­u­als, how they live and what they eat. My fo­cus is on those peo­ple who follow age old tra­di­tions and those who be­lieve in the sa­cred in­hibit­ing the coun­try and spirit medi­ums. The folk­tales, proverbs and id­ioms that were re­layed to us while we sat shelling maize around the fire in the evenings are the main source of in­spi­ra­tion for my sculp­ture. My work is a chronol­ogy of how peo­ple in Zim­babwe live and work to­gether,” said Mubayi

Some of his out­stand­ing are Snail Cross­ing the River, Nhau­ri­ranwa, War Vic­tim and Spirit Buf­falo/Mudz­imu We Ny­athi.

The Snail Cross­ing the River in­stal­la­tion is about a com­mu­nity`s in­volve­ment in the up­bring­ing of chil­dren.

Long ago peo­ple took dry tree trunks and made ca­noes which were then used to trans­port fam­i­lies across flooded rivers.

The snail here tra­verses the wa­ters with or­phaned chil­dren safe in the shell.

The par­ents of these or­phaned chil­dren were swept away by vi­o­lent flood wa­ters.

The chil­dren are taken to where they will be well taken care of. The snail rep­re­sents an­ces­tral spir­its.

The war vic­tim is about an in­di­vid­ual who lost limbs dur­ing the war.

It is a warn­ing about the evils of war and en­cour­ages peo­ple to live in peace and har­mony and to find ways to re­solv­ing con­flicts that do not in­volve vi­o­lence and un­nec­es­sary blood­shed.

The Buf­falo is a cel­e­bra­tion of totems, clans, kin­ship and king­ship.

This is a trib­ute to the Ny­athi Spirit. This is the only totem in Zim­babwe where they have fe­male Chief­tains.

It is also a trib­ute to the re­spect peo­ple have to give their for­bear­ers.

In the past for the rains to come abun­dantly, rit­u­als were done and peo­ple re­alised good har­vests. It is im­por­tant that we con­tinue to ob­serve and pre­serve such rit­u­als for many gen­er­a­tions to come.

While art has taken the vet­eran artist to places some peo­ple can only dream of vis­it­ing, his jour­ney of over five decades has had its ups and downs. Grow­ing up dur­ing the colo­nial pe­riod in Chiota, Mubayi worked as a to­bacco grader af­ter leav­ing school; in 1966 he moved to Sal­is­bury to look for work at the Chibuku Breweries.

He joined the Ten­genenge Sculp­ture Com­mu­nity in 1967 as one of its first mem­bers, and later worked at the Work­shop School founded by Frank McEwen. In 1969 he was awarded Op­pen­heimer Me­mo­rial Trust Award for Sculp­ture in Dur­ban, South Africa. He cur­rently lives and works in Chi­tung­wiza

“Be­com­ing an artist was a life chang­ing de­ci­sion I made as I was able to buy my own house and other prop­er­ties, as back then you if you sold a piece it was worth much more.

“I would not have been able do all of this if I was still work­ing in the field. To the young­sters who would like to pur­sue art as a ca­reer, I would like to ad­vise them that they need to be ded­i­cated and not give up un­til they achieve their goals.

“Suc­cess in this field comes from hard work, be­ing able to sol­dier through hard times and to con­tin­u­ously cre­ate some­thing that is unique and new that will cap­ti­vate the au­di­ence,” said Mubayi.

Other artists who lit up the Zim­bab­wean Pav­il­ion at the world’s big­gest in­ter­na­tional arts ex­hi­bi­tion also re­ferred to as the Olympics of the art world in­clude Ad­mire Ka­mudzen­gerere, Charles Bhebhe and Dana Whabira.

Ad­mire Ka­mudzen­gerere, is a young out­stand­ing ex­pres­sive painter.

His se­lec­tion and use of colour com­pli­ments the sub­ject mat­ter that he seeks to put across to the viewer.

Charles Bhebhe, is also a young pro­lific Bu­l­awayo-based vis­ual artist who pro­files the or­di­nary Zim­bab­wean per­son in his ob­ser­va­tions through the use of in­tri­cate colours in his paint­ings.

On the other hand Dana Whabira is an ar­chi­tect, artist, a cul­tural fa­cil­i­ta­tor and cu­ra­tor of the vis­ual arts and re­lated in­ter­faces.

She runs Njelele Art Sta­tion, which af­fords artists space to in­ter­act, ex­per­i­ment and show­case their cre­ativ­ity. She brings to this year’s Zim­babwe Pav­il­ion at the Venice Bi­en­nale some re­fresh­ing an­gles to the story of Zim­babwe.

The theme for the Zim­bab­wean Pav­il­ion is: De­con­struct­ing Bound­aries: Ex­plor­ing Ideas of Be­long­ing.

It is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the in­ter­roga­tory na­ture that has char­ac­ter­ized pre­vi­ous Zim­babwe Pavil­ions at the Venice Bi­en­nale.

The Zim­babwe Pav­il­ion in Venice will be on show in Venice un­til 26 Novem­ber 2017.

Sylvester Mubayi with one of his pieces

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.