A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
Shona stone sculptures
Art hewn from the spine of Zambia
JASMIN LEGATOS,found at The Montreal Gazette Published: Thursday, July 26
The Great Dyke is like the spine of Zimbabwe. The 500-kilometre ridge of volcanic rock that bisects the country from north to south is home to precious minerals like gold, silver, platinum and nickel.
It's also the source of one of Zimbabwe's greatest artistic exports, Shona stone sculptures. Named for the country's dominant tribe, Shona is truly a Zimbabwean phenomenon. It is the only country on the African continent that has large enough deposits of stone suitable for sculpting.
Simon Chidharara, lives in Nyanga, a region near the Mozambique border, where the ridge's stone is very colourful and beautiful, says Fran Fearnley, curator of the Shona d'Afrique III, the third annual exhibition of the stone sculptures taking place at Centennial Park in Beaconsfield.
At 27 years old, Chidharara is a veteran sculptor. Since Fearnley discovered his work seven years ago, he's shown impressive growth as an artist, she says, which is partly why she invited Chidharara to Canada this summer to serve as artist-in-residence of the small gallery Fearnley opened on her country property in 2000. The Rice Lake Gallery, which lies somewhere between Peterborough and Port Hope, Ont., is dedicated exclusively to Shona.
Chidharara will also be at Centennial Park during the eight-day exhibition, where he will create entirely new pieces, using only hand tools, before visitors' eyes.
"You can really feel a lot of energy in his (Chidharara's) work," Fearnley said.
Although traditional conceptions of African art conjure images of wooden tribal masks, Shona, which emerged as an artistic movement in the 1950s, is "much more contemporary and varied," Fearnley said.
According to his biography on the ZimArt website, the company Fearnley started to showcase Shona in Canada, Chidharara often chooses to depict women or "feminine spirits" because "women are the centre of life."
Shona sculptors, however, who as a rule always work and display their art outside, also use the stone from the Great Dyke to create animals, abstract figures and portraits in a wide array of styles.
A Shona sculpture by one of the 30 artists on display at the Centennial Park show will run you between $100 and $10,000, Fearnley said. The show is also a fundraiser for various HIV/AIDS charities.
The eight-day exhibition will kick off with a vernissage on Saturday that promises to bring something new to the table for seasoned visitors to Shona d'Afrique.
The Jimijamba School of Percussion will be on hand to give a free African djembe workshop, and performances by Dij Dij and Gotta Lago Project will help get the feet moving and the spirit thumping.
Shona d'Afrique III takes place at Centennial Park (288 Beaconsfield Blvd.) from Sunday to Aug. 5. Admission is free but donations to the Stephen Lewish Foundation, or ZimArt in trust for projects supporting HIV/AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe would be appreciated. For more information, visit www.beaconsfield.ca or call 514.428.4480
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2007
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