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Lifeline for Chitungwiza Arts Centre

BY MOSES MUGUGUNYEKI
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused devastating effects on all sectors of the economy and one such is the cultural and creative industry.

Since the cultural and creative sector relies mostly on the movement and availability of people, Covid-19 restrictions narrowed business in the sector leading to several jobs being furloughed.

In Zimbabwe, a large chunk of people are employed in the cultural and creative industry or in related sectors.

While other sectors rely on locals, there are some that have been allowed to die as their clientele is from outside the country.

One such sector that was adversely affected is the visual arts sector, which incorporates art history, electronic art and animation, drawing, painting, photography as well as sculpture.

Zimbabwe boasts of one of the largest sculpting communities in the world and some of its stone artificats have been exhibited at top global platforms.

However, the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago has had ripple effects on sculpture as movement of foreigners was restricted by lockdowns.

As such, most sculptors found themselves out of employment while others had to live from hand to mouth.

It is against such background that Pathfinder Ubuntu NPC, a non-profit making organisation involved in production and design work communication in Africa, chipped in to cushion the artistes, more so to ameliorate spaces in which these artistes work from.

Dubbed the Hand-up Stone Art Project, the programme which is in its second phase has seen Pathfinder Ubuntu NPC reaching out to scores of sculptors in Guruve, Mvurwi, Harare and Chitungwiza.

In its first phase, the project saw the improvement of infrastructure at Chitungwiza Arts Centre.

“The Hand-up Stone Art Project started in 2020 with the aim of cushioning 100 stone sculptors whose stone sculptures were collected and auctioned in the United States,” said Taurai Tigere, who is coordinating the project locally.

“The 100 sculptors were each asked to submit a stone sculpture worth US$100 which were later flown to the US where they were auctioned and the proceeds were returned here. The money is the one that has been used to improve infrastructure here at Chitungwiza Arts Centre.

“So far, we have a borehole drilled, we now have solar-powered system for sculptors to access Wi-Fi and we have a Gazebo that was constructed for women stone sculptors. These women and many other sculptors were also given work suits and all that money came from proceeds of the Hand-up Stone Art Project.”

Tigere expressed his gratitude to Pathfinder Ubuntu NPC who are facilitating the project.

“We are happy that Pathfinder Ubuntu NPC have introduced the second call of the Hand-up Stone Art Project and this one has been extended to other arts centres like Tengenenge in Guruve and Mvurwi in Mashonaland Central province as well as Tafara, Chapungu, Hatfield and Chitungwiza arts centres here in Harare district,” he said.

“This time we invited sculptors to submit their work and 100 selected will each walk away with US$200.

“The selected pieces will be auctioned in the United States and the proceeds once again will be used to develop infrastructure at Chitungwiza Arts Centre.”

According to Shona Bradford of Pathfinder Ubuntu NPC, 60 of the arts pieces were selected from sculptors outside Chitungwiza Arts Centre.

“Most of the contributions are coming from Chitungwiza Arts Centre where we are selecting work from 40 sculptors while 60 other sculptors are selected from four other arts centres that we have visited in the last two days,” Bradford said.

“Part of the programme is also to empower women sculptors and encourage them to market their work just like what their male counterparts do, hence the decision to build a gazebo here at Chitungwiza Arts Centre.”

She said at least 10% of the proceeds realised from the Hand-up Stone Art Project, would be channelled towards development of women sculptors.

Another Pathfinder Ubuntu NPC representative Jonny Cohen said the idea was to cushion stone sculptors who have been adversely affected by Covid-19.

“Pathfinder Ubuntu NPC has been operating in Africa for 17 years primarily involved in production and design work communication, among other developmental programmes,” Cohen said.

“We are here in Zimbabwe to partner Chitungwiza Arts Centre develop its infrastructure while we help cushion sculptors from the effects of Covid-19.

“We had our first phase in 2020 and we are here for the second phase which we believe will realise enough money to continue with developmental work for Chitungwiza Arts Centre.”

Tigere said he was happy that most sculptors from the selected arts centres submitted their work and we eager to participate in future programmes.

“Sculptors are happy to be part of the programme so is the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe whom we are working with under Hand-up Stone Art Project,” he said.

Chitungwiza Arts Centre chairman Kennedy Zano expressed gratitude over the work Pathfinder Ubuntu NPC is doing at the arts centre.

“This is highly commendable and I am happy that we have some of guys working with Pathfinder Ubuntu to develop this centre. Hats off to you Taurai Tigere and Isaac Tsholoka for working for the improvement of this arts centre,” he said.

Zano said Chitungwiza Arts Centre was home to more than 250 visual artistes working in different arts genres.

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