THE new Arches venue at Aberfoyle Estate in Honde Valley is set to officially open this Saturday with an art exhibition which celebrates the work of the 1940s students at Bulawayo’s Cyrene Mission School (Cyrene).
Dubbed The Stars Are Bright, the exhibition is a collection of 600 unsold works from exhibitions in the United Kingdom, Europe and United States of America from 1947 to 1953.
The exhibition will see 81 of the most outstanding pieces by 40 artists on display until March 2022.
Cyrene, located 32km southwest of Bulawayo on the edge of the Matopos, developed the unique paintings under the learning institution’s art teacher Canon Ned Paterson’s guidance, and were only rediscovered in 1978 in storage at a church in London.
“After 70 long years, this astonishingly brave and truthful work can now be reunited with the very landscapes that inspired it, which makes for an exciting and emotional homecoming,” the local director of The Stars Are Bright exhibition, Lisa Masterson, said.
Art was a compulsory subject at Cyrene, with students coming up with paintings characterised by biblical narratives, reimagined local myths and beautiful local landscapes.
The art came to the British Royal Family’s attention during their 1947 African tour, before several exhibitions were organised overseas, with proceeds from the sales being used to fund Cyrene.
The school produced a number of black artists, scholars and practitioners, including Adomech Moyo, Livingstone Sango and William Mariwi.
Some of the school’s alumni such as Randford Sililo, was commissioned to paint three large murals at the Livingstone Museum and Richard Rachidi became the first qualified black art teacher in his home country, while Kingsley Sambo and Samuel Songo both became art teachers at the institution.
The Arches venue adjoins Aberfoyle Lodge, built in the 1950s for tea estate managers, before it was renovated into a lodge and conference centre, which accommodates up to 50 guests.
It will now be used as a multi-use facility for art exhibitions, conferences, workshops and special events such as weddings.