Being a renowned eye specialist can be enough to wean one from their culture and traditions.
By WELLINGTON ZIMBOWA
Famed for his charity medical outreach programmes through the Eyes for Africa project, little is known about Solomon Guramatunhu’s passion for the art world.
Sculptures, portraits, carvings, paintings, music and books are the man’s treasured possessions.
And the glaring cosmopolitan aura is certain as his artwork is a rich blend of various cultures with collections not only from the mother continent but other foreign places such as Australia, Shanghai, Bali, Vietnam, South America, as well as the Carribean.
But the obvious bias to Zimbabwean tradition cannot be missed. His garden, immaculately decorated with sculptures, boldly explores traditional aspects such as spirituality and ubuntu.
“I believe that if others appreciate and invest in our art better than us, we run the risk of being educated but not enlightened,” he says.
“Most of my artwork collection is from first generation sculptors like Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Henry Munyaradzi, Bernard Matemera and the Takawira brothers. It’s unfortunate that most of them are now late with the exception of Sylvester Mubayi whom I visited in Chitungwiza and the youngest of the Takawira brothers,” he said.
At the entrance is Nicholas Mukomberanwa’s Lovers on a huge rough stone and according to Guramatunhu, “the couple have just been to the top of the mountain. Now they are in a very intimate embrace”.
Then, there is Dominic Benhura’s Dancer, who is in a dancing-like stance with both arms stretched out in opposite directions who is there to welcome his visitors, as well as wave them goodbye.
Benard Matemera’s Spiritual Lady which Guramatunhu found in Guruve while lying in rubble, is a huge “female” sculpture that looks lost in meditation.
“She is very spiritual, I pass through every morning and thank her for looking over me during the night!” explained the eye specialist.
But it is Benhura’s larger than life handiworks — convincingly electrifying the whole garden — that dominate his collections in the vast picturesque garden, with the Feeling Good Lady “sure to make anyone who gets close to her feel good.”
Another impressive icon is the Mother and Child facing the entrance “as if to ward off the evil forces.”
The gallery inside the house also contains many paintings from local and foreign artists.
The former Alliance Francaise president, who besides English and Shona also speaks French, Portuguese and Ndebele — a helping factor in conversing with his varied assortment of patients is the National Art Gallery’s chairperson.
He is determined to give his all in promoting and appreciating art by Zimbabweans.
“I am very fortunate to work with amazing people like Doreen Sibanda, director of the National Gallery, Raphael Chikukwa, the curator, and all staff as well as a dynamic team of board members for Friends of the Gallery and architect, Richard Beattie,” said Guramatunhu.
Following a donation from the Norwegian embassy, challenges such as the perennial leakages will soon end as the gallery is on the verge of completing some major facelifts.
The eye specialist, who was the founding chairperson of a post- graduate medical course at the University of Zimbabwe, is also passionate in reaching out to the corporate world, schools and colleges.
“We recently held a corporate dinner in a bid to unlock financial support for art development and support to artistes and we are also having numerous outreach programmes for school- children,” he said.
How does he cool off given his obvious tight schedule?
“I dance ballroom and latino for an hour everyday and I also have a special interest in dressage horse riding,” he said.