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Nehanda sculpture torches storm

by Staff reporter
04 Dec 2020 at 06:36hrs | Views
WHILE sculpture is a celebrated art form in the country, it appears many have not been able to appreciate some of the artefacts, if the trending disapproval of the memorial statue for the country's late first Chimurenga heroine Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana, who is popularly known as Mbuya Nehanda, on different digital platforms is anything to go by.

Mbuya Nehanda was considered a powerful spirit medium and heroine of the 1896-97 First Chimurenga war against British colonialism.

The statue, the government claims, will serve to cultivate the spirit of heroism and also act as an inspiration for girls to self-actualise.

The memorial statue of Mbuya Nehanda that is set to be erected at the intersection of Samora Machel Avenue and Julius Nyerere Way in Harare has, however, been widely criticised by the public on different digital media platforms as a caricature of the spirit medium.

The images of Mbuya Nehanda's statue went viral after President Emmerson Mnangagwa's visit to Nyati gallery near Snake Park along the Harare-Bulawayo Highway on Monday where the statue is being carved by renowned sculpture David Mutasa.

Speaking during the tour of the gallery, Mnangagwa said the government decided to honour Mbuya Nehanda for her heroic rebellion against colonialism in which she paid the ultimate price by being hanged on April 27, 1902.

The carving that shows Mbuya Nehanda in her trademark outfit has been shared on social media platforms, with many observers questioning if it bore a close resemblance to the celebrated superwoman.

In similar fashion, about four years ago, the late former President Robert Mugabe's stone sculpture carved by renowned artists Dominic Benhura was met with mixed reactions.
Some art enthusiasts and creatives, who spoke to NewsDay Life Style yesterday said good art was supposed to speak for itself.

"Something really went terribly wrong. This Mbuya Nehanda statue is a catastrophe, it was supposed to have been done in a better way than as commissioned work," Katsoka said.

"This is an insult to our heroine. She has just been sculpturally insulted; this sculpture should have never attempted it."

Former National Arts Council of Zimbabwe director Elvas Mare said if Mbuya Nehanda's statue was supposed to be just a piece of art, then it had no limit as to what it should look like.

"I think the missing link in this whole discussion is the voice of the artist and those who commissioned him. It would be important to know if this piece of art was meant to depict a certain image or just an abstract image, what is really the intention of the commissioning agent?" he said.

"In the absence of that information, however, my view is that the piece is neither abstract nor an accurate image of what has always been projected as the image of Mbuya Nehanda. This is where the people involved should then explain themselves satisfactorily because art is supposed to speak to the target audience. Failure to do that, even if it is a song or book, then it has no listeners or readers."

Mare said: "Statues, however, must always be as close to the image of the person being represented as is artistically possible, the more it looks close to the represented person the artistically better it is."

"I personally have no problem as long as the artist knows that there is always a difference in how audiences perceive the different forms, styles and types. It is in the same mode as handmade and mass produce or machine made, the value is different though."

Former Higher Education, Science and Technology Development deputy minister Godfrey Gandawa through micro blogging site Twitter said the government needed to be open to new ways of doing things, including transparent tenders for all projects.

"In 2020, there is no reason for government to produce a statue that bears little resemblance to a figure of such historical significance. Using direct volumetric CNN regression allows us to generate a 3D face reconstruction, using a single 2D facial image," he said.

"With minor manual improvements on the existing 2D Nehanda image, this technology could have helped produce a better resemblance. Overall precision could have been achieved by modelling the rest of the body and executing through 3D printing. This would have been an excellent project for Harare Institute of Technology students, adding to their learning, as well as improving local sculpting standards."

Seasoned sculptor John Gutsa without getting much into detail said the idea to honour Mbuya Nehanda was noble, adding that such outcomes were common in the crafting of carvings.

"Such things happen in this industry. I think the work must not only be commissioned to one person, maybe if it can be done by many artists as sort of a competition then the best artefact is chosen," he said.

Source - newsday

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