Art Blooms Beneath the Jacaranda Trees

By Marianne Betts, Amanda Manyarara, and Michelle Matswayi. 

Beneath the vibrant purple of the jacaranda trees on an unseasonably cool and overcast October day at the Borrowdale Racecourse in Harare, the Old Stables Market housed a diverse range of 160 artists from all over Zimbabwe gathered to showcase their talents.

With artists from as far afield as Victoria Falls, Chiredzi, Bulawayo, Binga, Gweru, Mvurwi and also many from Harare. Their efforts were rewarded as more than 1,500 people flocked to the Jacaranda Art Fair to view their work, among them some of the nation’s most talented artists sculptors, photographers, craftsmen and potters. 

The artists were spread around the market ready to exhibit their work and an incredible turn out of art enthusiasts was ready to purchase art pieces. Sales were surprisingly good! 

Several food outlets kept visitors munching and hydrated whilst being mesmerized by the art which in essence connects itself to the rest of humanity, reuniting and recording fragments of thought, feeling, and memory and saying things that they cannot express in any other way. Pop Republic, being one such example, provided sweet gourmet popsicles for purchase. 

The artists spanned in age from the very talented 14-year-old Tawanda Mhako, right through to the iconic Arthur Azevedo in his mid-80s. Arthur was initially renowned as a metal sculptor, and later for his minimalistic animal sketches. On display was the unique and vibrant portrayal of the jacaranda and flamboyant trees of Valentine Magutsa, while Dillon Ward showcased his hand-designed clothes, hats, and scarfs made from degradable products, using several techniques to achieve the final printed fabric. 

Tich Ncube, a wildlife artist from Vic Falls, his work is characterized by incredibly piercing wild animals, in a very individual style.  Using different mediums and themes, his latest approach is the “splash technique”, which he is using for his ‘Almost Snuffed Out’ collection, depicting endangered animals trying to find their way back to life from behind the shadows of extinction. 

Derwin Guti has given the humble Zimbabwean Eversharp blue ballpoint pen a whole new level of respect, as this is the tool from which he creates his striking portraits. Guti started drawing at the age of three, with his mother recognising and nurturing his artistic talent, which saw him studying art at Eaglesvale High School, before graduating with a BSc degree in Visual Communication and Multimedia Design from the Chinhoyi University of Technology in 2018.

Irene, a weaver from Binga specializes in traditional weaving techniques to create intricately patterned baskets using all-natural and locally harvested materials – such as wild grasses, small vines, and palm leaves dyed with tree bark – to make up the baskets. Binga baskets are woven using the over and under the style of simple weaving in a circular pattern. The baskets, which can take three days to complete, are uniquely done by Binga women who then export these to other countries.

Alice Jul Jørgensen owner of House by the Sea was exhibiting what they call “Danish meets Zimbabwean tradition” which incorporation her Danish origins and the Zimbabwean traditions through various stone-made platters, trays, bowls and boards. 

 Another interesting type of art was mixed media art. Zindoga Maisiri from Gweru uses collage with a mix of newspaper articles and statements. Kombo Chapfika’s work provides social commentary on both big and small issues, often through the use of newspaper and billboards, while Albert Mubatsa’s pencil sketches were incredibly life-like, and Sarah Fynn showed Zimbabwean landscapes in her exuberant style with movement and life. 

Metal Sculpture was one of the popular art forms found at the fair. Ellard and Godfrey were among the artists showcasing their art pieces of the Kudu family created from random metal pieces such as car parts that would have been thrown away. They weld these pieces together, sometimes taking about three months to complete a piece.

Other outstanding highlights included Ishmael Marimirofa whose use of waste such as wire, tins, cans, toothpaste tubes, and bottles of perfume were used to create 3D pictures. The Zata brothers use driftwood and stick to create pagodas and owls and carve benches, chairs and tables from old trees. The Workshop group is made up of artists Leslie Johnson, Sheena Chadwick, Peggy Sheppard, Joan Dunstan, and Marlene Bornman, who specialise in completely different offerings from ceramics to large-scale, contemporary oil, acrylic and watercolour paintings.

Well-known artist Lin Barrie featured, as did Dee Schafer with her landscape paintings, and Keith Zenda, with his big personality, confidence, and high-quality artworks which sold well, while 19-year-old Brendan Alfredo’s realistic pieces were exceptionally good for his age.

Another artist to make the journey from Victoria Falls was Lawrence Nyemba, known for his large portraits, while Webster Mubayirenyi’s trademark vibrant, contoured landscapes caught many eyes, as did the striking work of photographers Chris Sheppard and Martina Gruber.   

The Verandah Gallery, which for over 20 years has been synonymous with art in Zimbabwe, represented a variety of well-known artists who couldn’t make it on the day, also selling their calendars and tea towels. 

The Jacaranda Art Fair is held annually when the jacarandas are in full bloom, serving as a celebration of the beauty of the surroundings as well as, of course, the artistic talent in our midst. “Zimbabwean art would not be without events like Wild Geese and The Verandah Gallery, and we hope to fill a slot within that offering of art days because the artists are just not getting enough exposure,” Jacaranda Art Fair organizer Vicky Bowen says.

The Jacaranda Art Fair provided a platform for artists to learn from each other and interact with the public which made it a huge success. She has given an outdoor space for people to freely express their passion and enjoyment of art. With live music played in the background by a band, the event had a calming aura which made the entire experience enjoyable. 

Zimbabwe has so much hidden talent; we can’t wait for the next Jacaranda Art Fair in 2022!

Images by Vicky Bowen

Originally published in the 119th Issue of Ndeipi Magazine

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