Not Your Average Garden Gnome

Zimsculpt, an exhibition of Zimbabwean sculptures running in the Van Dusen Gardens until October 4th, is filled with captivating figures that seem to bloom among Van Dusen’s colourful flowers, varied plants and assorted trees. There are diverse forms ranging from people to animals to the abstract – all in hues of black and green that come together in fluid movements made from blocks of hard stone. There is a ballerina sprawled across the grass in mid-split, two lizards peering out at the world from atop a stone, a plump woman on her way to the market among the reeds, a black figure wondering about love … All in all, it is a captivating walk through the trees.

Zimsculpt curator, Vivienne Croissette, who spends months in Zimbabwe each year seeking out sculptures for the traveling exhibit, explains that she is drawn to Zimbabwean sculpture because of its unique finishing and texture. Hues of green and black, as well as rough to smooth textures, are created in sculptures made from a single block of stone. The technique is unique to sculptures from Zimbabwe and is applied to stone native to the country.

Vancouver is Zimsculpt’s last stop on a traveling exhibition featuring more than 150 sculptures. The organization supports approximately 200 artists and provides different sculptors with the opportunity to travel with the exhibition each year. This year, Passmore Mupindiko and Patrick Sephani were selected. During the exhibition, they can be seen under a tent in the Gardens, working away at their latest creations made from stone they have brought with them from Zimbabwe.

In a country where unemployment rose above 90% in 2009, the possibility of selling sculptures abroad has provided some of the unemployed with hope. The stone, which is native to Zimbabwe is relatively easy to access, Croisette explains. Thus, many who have lost their jobs try their hand at the traditional art in hopes of selling their work to tourists or foreign art collectors. As very few tourists presently visit Zimbabwe, the role of curators, like Croissette, has become even more important for the industry.

The lucky ones, like Mupindiko and Sephani, who succeed in selling their work abroad, can attain a higher standard of living than many of their fellow Zimbabweans. Both sculptors say that their incomes will enable them to purchase a house and a car, while meeting the basic needs of their families.

Zimsculpt will run in Van Dusen Gardens until October 4th. It is included in the admission fee to the garden. During the daylight hours, Passmore Mupindiko and Patrick Sephani can be seen making sculptures of Zimbabwean stone.

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