HARARE – The old truism prophets are never recognised in their own country rings true when one considers the number of world-renowned artists, particularly sculptors who have been borne out of this soil we call Zimbabwe.
Needless to say true creative genius will always rise to the occasion.
Veteran and internationally-renowned artist Tapfuma Moses Gutsa has recently been awarded alumni status together with world-renowned British artists James Butler, Sonia Boyce, Hew Locke, and Elizabeth Fitzgerald who have also attended the same institution, The City and Guilds, London School of Art.
Yet again, Gutsa makes history as the first African and Zimbabwean artist to be proffered alumni status by a British college.
This honour was bestowed upon him for his innovation and excellence in international contemporary visual art.
Following his achievements at the 54th Venice Biennale held in Italy, in May 2011, the artist’s international reputation continues to rise.
Born in 1956 in Harare, Gutsa was educated at Driefontein Mission School in Mvuma, where he was taught by the respected sculptor and teacher Cornelius Manguma.
He became the first recipient of a British Council scholarship award to Zimbabwe for the visual arts.
From 1982 to 1985 he studied art at the London School of Art, England, and was awarded a diploma in sculpture by the City and Guilds Board, London.
Often using a combination of materials, such as stone, metal, wood, wire, paper and string, he strives to express contemporary as well as traditional ideals to a local as well as an international audience.
This year, he produced another ground-breaking exhibition and catalogue entitled “Mulonga”, which was inspired by the basket weavers and artisans of the Batonga Bamu Zimbabwe of Binga in the Zambezi Valley.
For many visual artists, Gutsa has been a powerful role model and sculptors such as Arthur Fata, Fabian Madamombe, Garrison Machinjili, Wenceslaus Marufu, and Dominic Benhura, all cite Tapfuma as their major influence.
More than any other of the second generation of Zimbabwean stone sculptors Gutsa broke free from the perceived Shona traditions established in this art movement and sought to extract the concepts, form and tactility of universal sculpture.
In Gutsa’s hands, the process of making art becomes ritualistic. Like an alchemist he transforms natural raw materials into a language of archetypal symbols that originate in his own Zimbabwean cultural domain and yet have resonance in Pan-African and occidental cultures.
Tapfuma´s sculpture articulates readily and powerfully to an international art audience, with a vocabulary, which reflects refreshingly new techniques.
His work is often culturally charged, and his art is capable of great poignancy.
His vision is challenging, both in terms of visual aesthetics, ideology and technical virtuosity.
His subject matter is not restricted to portraying traditional cultural issues and tackles current universal cultural discourse.
In a recent interview with the iconic international Zimbabwean artist, he said he was humbled by the honour.
He collates seemingly disconnected elements and objects from different African periods and cultures and conjoins them to become a simultaneous vision within his artwork.
His art is always an enquiry into the notion of how society sees itself.
He recognises the independent life of images from past and present, not only of visual art but of human ideas and experiences that strike resonant cords within our minds and spirits.
He is currently Artist-in-Residence at the Harare Polytechnic, where he nurtures young aspiring visual artists. – Tonderayi Zvimba, Arts Correspondent