Covid-19 claims top sculptor

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ZIMBABWE’s multi-award-winning and first generation sculptor Lazarus Takawira has died of Covid-19.

The affable Takawira who was known for sculpting images of the finer sex, died in Harare at the age of 69.

His son Bernard Takawira yesterday confirmed the sad news to the Daily News from Hampstead, London where he lives. “My father tested positive for Covid-19 on 11 January and passed away the day after. He was in Zimbabwe. He will be buried at his plot in Nora Valley, Ruwa. Plot 3 Cheltenham Park Road tomorrow (today).

“He is survived by his wife Cecillia, son — Bernard, daughters — Rudo and Leah as well as a granddaughter Chido.”

Internationally-renowned and multi-award-winning stone sculptor Dominic Benhura was at a loss for words.

“It was with great sadness when I leant about Takawira’s passing on from his son.  I knew him quite well such that he would sometimes come and sculpt with us at our Studio.


Lazarus Takawira

“He was brotherly, had great sense of humour and spoke strongly against piracy, which is a big threat to the industry’s survival across the cultural sector. No wonder most artists unfortunately end up relying on charity during their last days. I think there is need for the relevant authorities to look closely and find out why no one is never convicted when the problem exists.’’

Another internationally-renowned stone sculptor Bryn Mteki could only say: “We used to call him Mudhara Lazzie and he was among the pioneers of stone sculpture alongside my late uncle Boira and my father Richard Mteki. He toured the world where he held countless exhibitions. We mourn one of our greatest stone sculptors who was true to promoting Zimbabwean original art.”

Talented painter Chiko Chazunguza said: “He was indeed one of the Godfathers of Zimbabwean contemporary stone sculpture, his life journey was not in vain, he left behind a huge legacy.”

The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (Nacz) expressed its deepest sympathy and sorrow following the death of Takawira.

Nacz director Nicholas Moyo says the country has lost a legend of Shona stone sculpture whose name is recognisable across the globe for his artworks.  “Our hearts were immediately filled with sorrow upon hearing the news of Lazarus’s passing.

“Our most sincere condolences go out to the Takawira family which has lost a father, grandfather and icon of Zimbabwean stone sculpture.”

Moyo said Takawira was a pioneering sculptor whose work is held in the permanent and overseas collections of the Zimbabwean National Gallery, as well as various public collections around the world, including the Musee du Rodin in Paris, The World Bank in New York, The Africa Museum in Belgium and the Museum of Mumbai, India.

“The death of Lazarus is a big blow to the local arts industry.  While he began working in sculpture under his brother John’s guidance in the early 1970s over time his style, subject matter and approach changed considerably as he worked almost exclusively in Springstone, an exceptionally hard and heavy local stone that gave his work a beautiful finish,” said Moyo.

Takawira was born in 1952 in Nyanga the youngest in a family of four boys. He attended St. Paul’s Secondary School and joined the police force after completing his secondary education and received his training at Tomlison Depot in Harare in 1970. By the time he joined the police force his brothers John and Bernard were already beginning to establish themselves as prominent sculptors both locally and internationally.

During his career in the police, Takawira did a lot of sculpting in his spare time and his sculptures were exhibited in several exhibitions. In 1980 he left the force as he felt his work had gained sufficient acclaim to allow him to take up sculpting full time.

“His early work showed a definite influence by his brothers but as time went on his individuality began to come to the fore. He then developed an unmistakable style of his own, which brought him fame at home and abroad,” Moyo said.

During his decades long career Takawira was a recipient of many local and international awards including the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) (2008), Award of Merit, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe (1993), Award of Distinction, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe(1991), Certificate of Excellence, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe (1990), Award of Merit, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe (1989), Certificate of Excellence, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe (1988) and the Commission for Old Mutual, (1987).

He also participated in various local and International Solo and Group exhibitions including the “Spirit of a Woman”, Galerie Emil Julis, Černčice, Czechia (2009), Französische Botschaft, Harare, (1989) and the Standard Chartered Gallery, John Boyne House, (1987).

Other exhibitions include the “Embracing the Spirit”, Henley on Thames, London, UK (2010), “Sculptors of Zimbabwe”, National Museum of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenia (2008) and the Minnesota Rocks International Stone Carving Symposium (2006) among others.

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