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Remembering sculptor Akuda 10 years on

The late Fanizani Akuda with his piece in 1970 entitled, “Growing Child”

Timothy Akuda

Own Correspondent 

This month marks exactly 10 years after the death of Fanizani Akuda, who died on the 5 February in 2011. 

Together with other group members in the 1960s, they started what we now appreciate as the Zimbabwe Sculpture Movement, commonly referred to as Shona Stone Sculpture.

The journey they travelled as founding members has been recorded and cherished in different circles and today Zimbabwe is recognised and appreciated internationally because of its stone sculpture. 

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Fanizani was born in Zambia in 1932 and migrated to Zimbabwe in 1949 in search of work.

In the 1950s he was employed at a farm as a cotton picker and later became a brick layer. He gained much experience working on tobacco farms that at one point he was employed as a farm manager. 

During this period, in his spare time, he would weave baskets.

In the late 1960s he moved to Tengenenge where he was employed to dig serpentine stones from the mines. 

After being encouraged by Thomas Blomefield, he decided to lend his hand to stone sculpture and he did so with a strong conviction.

As early as 1967 when Tengenenge Art Community was formed, his work was included in the Annual Heritage Exhibition by the then National Gallery of Rhodesia. 

Over the years to follow, his works were included in international exhibitions, including the famous first exhibition themed ‘Art from Rhodesia’ organised by Frank McEwen and hosted by the Musee Rodin in France.

Just like most of his contemporaries, Fanizani was interested in creating a style of his own.

 Today, his work is identified through slit eyes, round shapes, cheerful and smiling heads with the common being the whistling head and he dwelt much on the human and animal theme.

After leaving Tengenenge together with a few other artists because of the war in the 1970s, he settled in Chitungwiza where collectors and promoters continued to sort his works.

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Among them were doctors, engineers, architects including Jorn Utzon who designed the Sydney Opera House in Australia. 

When the war ended in early 1980, Fanizani did not return to Tengenenge.

In the 1980s he became famous for his depiction of ‘Mother and Child’ a theme which was included in the collection by the Child Survival Foundation, an initiative started by the late Sally Mugabe and supported by other different artists like the late Nicholas Mukomberanwa and Damian Manuhwa.

Today, some of Fanizani’s work form part of the permanent collection by the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, The Chapungu Sculpture Park and the international organisation Humana People to People.

Fanizani participated in different solo and group exhibitions and travelled the world showcasing his works. 

Between the years 1969-1994, he was given a merit award by the National Gallery of Zimbabwe more than 10 times and in 1988 he was awarded the certificate of excellence by the same institution. 

In 2000, he was granted freedom of the city of Paris by the French authorities after a successful one man exhibition. 

Other major exhibitions he held include annual heritage exhibitions by NGZ from 1967-92, the Feingarten Galleries, in Los Angeles in 1980 and Images in Stone at the Earl Sherman Gallery in California in 1983.

In 2005, The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in partnership with Humana honoured him with a solo Retrospective titled The Legend of Zimbabwe’s Stone Sculpture: Fanizani Akuda that was curated by the late Celia Winter Irving. 

Though he is no more, the world takes comfort in the works he created, works we still find in museums and galleries across the world today.

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The writer is a grandson to Fanizani Akuda who is also a vivid fan for the stone sculpture movement. He used to write for NGZ Artlife magazine and Panorama magazine by David Maruziva. He is writing a book titled “The Moving Clouds”, capturing the history of the sculpture movement in a novel in order for the coming generations to understand it in a simple manner.

HERALD