Art@Site Dominic Benhura Zimbabwe Bird Zimbabwe

Dominic Benhura


Zimbabwe Bird

Zimbabwe Bird
Chapungu – the great spirit bird. Symbol of our nation, protecting us through the centuries.
At the age of 10 Dominic Benhura began to assist his cousin, the sculptor Tapfuma Gutsa, an soon after to create his own works. Many early formative years were spent at Chapungu Sculpture Park and he is today regarded as the cutting edge of Zimbabwe sculpture with one-man exhibitions in Zimbabwe, Australia, Belgium, Holland, Germany and America.
His subject matter is extensive including plants, trees, reptiles, animals and the whole gambut of human experience. Benhura has an exceptional ability to portray human feeling through form rather than facial expression. He continues to lead by experimentation and innovation and has created many memorable works including Euphorbia Tree, Our H.I.V. Friend, Swing Me Mama, The Dance of the Rainbirds, and Lazy Sunday.
Dominic Benhura, born in 1968, is in a league of his own. He began his career in sculpture at the age ofen when he studied under his cousin, Tapfuma Gusta, a Master Sculptor. Dominic sold his first piece professionally to architects at the age of twelve. His work is bold and daring and he captures balance and movement both physically and emotionally. His prime motivation is to explore new ideas, concepts, techniques and methods and to express and communicate powerfully simple ideas. Nature, family and the relationships with his children are his main inspiration for his sculptures.
Dominic often combines materials such as steel, wire and stone to create a beautiful mixed medium, which works together in harmony. The stone itself is selected for its luminosity and color, and is carved and ground down and reconstructed to create a striking plant or human form, for which he has become world renowned. Dominic’s work has been included in many major exhibitions both in Zimbabwe and internationally. He has also been involved in workshops in Botswana, USA, Holland, Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom. He now wks out of his home and is passing down his knowledge and skill to many international artists and local apprentices.
The Chapungu Sculpture Park is a sculpture park in Msasa, Harare, Zimbabwe, which displays the work of Zimbabwean stone sculptors. It was founded in 1970 by Roy Guthrie, who was instrumental in promoting the work of its sculptors worldwide. One way this was done was by exhibiting the sculptures in Botanical Gardens in a touring exhibition called "Chapungu: Custom and Legend — A Culture in Sto".
Chapungu (Cha-POONG-goo) is the name given to the monumental sculptures produced by the present day Shona people who live in Zimbabwe, Africa. The sculptures are currently displayed throughout the Garden grounds in eight thematic groups: nature and the environment, family, custom and legend, village life, the role of women, the spirit world, the role of the elders, and social comment. The Garden is a particularly appropriate venue for the exhibition as artists create these sculptures to be viewed outdoors. Stone sculpting is a relatively recent means of expression by Shona people, though the Shona have had a rich culture for thousands of years. Shona sculpture emerged on the international art scene in the early 1960s, when individual and small workshops of artists were encouraged by the director of the National Art Gallery in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). Shona artists were soon well-known for this art form, particularly for the themes and ideas that inspired their pieces. With access to a greater market, the artists experimented with a larger variety of stone, especially the harder stones such as serpentine, opal stone, and springstone, which were found in Zimbabwe’s Great Dyke, a 540 kilometer stretch of hills running north and south through Zimbabwe. Harder stones allow artists to create more detail in their sculptures than softer stones. However, as all the sculptures are hand carved, harder stones take more time to work and are harder on the sculptor’s tools.
The sculptures are carved using a variety of hand tools. A common hammer and chisel are often used to chip away at the stone blocks. Additional tools used include a file, a chasing (instrument that has combs on its tips to create different textures), and wet or dry paper, which is like sandpaper (this gives the stone a smooth texture) to bring the finished work to a shine. As a final step, artists often wipe down the stone with beeswax. None of the sculptures are dyed. Their colors result from the minerals in the rock. brown, rusty color on parts of some of the sculptures are places where the artist has chosen not to remove the outer layer of rock where oxidation (rusting) of iron in the rock has occurred from sitting exposed for thousands of years.
The sculptures are all mounted on tree stumps obtained from the recent storm damage in July at the Garden. No trees were cut down specifically for this exhibit.