Regis Ziteya

Regis Ziteya. Photo by Mai Palmberg

"They think sculpture is irrelevant to modern thinking"

Regis Ziteya was born in 1980 in Chivu in Mashonaland, Zimbabwe. He is a student in African languages and culture at the Midlands State University in Gweru.

It seems to me that Chapungu Sculpture Park and Dominic's studio have different profiles, the Chapungu Sculpture Park being more loyal to the ideals of Shona sculpture.

I think there is a difference between Chapungu and Dominic Benhura, but if we talk of Dominic Benhura, we have to talk about where he comes from. He was trained by Tapfuma Gutsa, a man who had much exposure to the English art scene, where he had stayed for some time. And Dominic Benhura also speaks to an international audience because he is a young man who is familiar with the global village and its social things; he has seen it all.

But if you talk about Chapungu Sculpture Park, you need to keep in mind that people like Roy Guthrie have been very intimate with the local culture. They don't want to move away from the aspect of Shona sculpture. And also, if you look at the commercial aspect of Shona sculpture in Zimbabwe , it is selling very well because the buyers across the world want to know about the African culture.

I think the name "Shona sculpture" came into play because that sculpture was started by the Shona people under the tutelage of Monomotapa, who built the Great Zimbabwe. The name "Shona sculpture" is like ideology, like "Marxism". Whether you are in Zimbabwe or in Ghana you can also be a Marxist. It means you are still talking about the reincarnation of what the Shona sculptors did when they built Great Zimbabwe. Even if you are Ndebele, if you know you are coming into sculpture, you are still a Shona sculptor because you are doing something that was started by the Shona people. That is why I am saying that it is like an ideology, like Marxism, socialism. Socialism was started in the Eastern Block, but you have Zimbabweans, you have Somalis who call themselves socialists.

How much are Zimbabwean school children reading and learning about sculpture?
The problem with the Zimbabwean educational curriculum or the policy of the Ministry for Education and Culture is stereotyping. People believe that a sculptor is a social misfit, someone who wears dreadlocks and has failed in society. Today, every child wants to be a pilot or to have any other white-collar job. Due to lack of information and the dominance of misinformation, there is not much appreciation in terms of sculpture in Zimbabwe.

But if you look at Group-A schools in Zimbabwe, schools like Prince Edward, they have been exposed to what is taking place in the world. These schools are meant for the elite in Zimbabwe and they offer educational resources that are different from those given by other schools. They can know that this is a piece by Dominic Benhura, that it is about this and that, whereas someone from a rural area or even a Group-B school cannot understand the sculptures of Zimbabwe . He thinks: "No, it is just a stone."

But is that not a little strange? I mean, with so much stress on the early sculpture movement, on Shona culture and the Shona origin of the sculpting? Is it not strange that the schools do not offer some more education on Shona sculpture as a source of pride in national identity?
The policy planners in Zimbabwe have failed when it comes to education, and actually, even they themselves do not understand the logic behind the sculpture. They think sculpture in Zimbabwe is all about social misfits so maybe they do not want their kids to be sculptures, nor to understand the sculptures. They think it is irrelevant to the modern day thinking.

How do you see the future trends in Shona sculpture, or in stone sculpture in general?
I think the future is not really bright for the artists in Zimbabwe, because when we look at those who started sculpting in Zimbabwe, they were not concerned about the commercial aspects of it, but they were there to protect the cultural integrity of this society. If you look at these young ones, cultural integrity is now a secondary issue, if not a tertiary one, but the commercial aspect is their primary interest, and hence the mass production of art. Art for art's sake is also coming into play. Some of the art works, which are being produced now, do not serve any purpose. They are there to enter the commercial field, to sell rather than improve the consciousness of people and rebuild the society. They are there just to be sold and I don't see that kind of attitude changing when it comes to the arts in Zimbabwe.

[Interview in Chapungu Sculpture Park on 11 November 2002]

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