The art movement creating giant stone sculptures from Zimbabwe began in the late 1950s. The Chapungu Sculpture Park in the capitol of Harare, Zimbabwe has its North American counterpart in Loveland.
Several miles from the Chapungu Sculpture Park is the Chapungu Warehouse and Gallery. There visitors can find works from many of the great stone sculptors of Zimbabwe, and some lesser-known artists as well. Changing exhibitions highlight various aspects of artistic expression from the Zimbabwean sculptors. The current exhibition of small but beautiful works is called “Art Gems from Africa.”
Music from the Mbira carries through the Chapungu Sculpture Park. Marcey Mushore plays an ancient instrument of the Shona people of Zimbabwe.
“It’s played when a young baby is born, it’s played when we name the baby, it’s played when young children reach puberty,” Mushore said. “It’s played again when people meet for marriage, it’s played when people have an illness, it’s also played at death; so it’s very, very important in our day-to-day lives.”
In the stone, visitors recognize universal human emotion. A work by sculptor Taylor Nkomo is called “The First Kicks.”
“It always takes people by surprise. They have a pre-conceived idea about art from Africa and then they come and they see a modern expression, which expresses many aspects of their own lives,” curator Roy Guthrie said.
Guthrie showed Colorado Getaways Producer Doug Whitehead a piece by Joe Mutasa.
“It’s titled ‘Coming of Age’ and it reflects on a young girl who’s leaving the family,” Guthrie said. “The caption reads ‘… she will leave me soon. We must treasure our time together.’
“The Shana people themselves have been described as quiet, reflective and deeply spiritual; and we hope that this sculpture park can bring that to people … and this is all done by hand, all done by people who believe that nothing that exists is inanimate, everything has its own spirit.”
Family ties run deep in the modern art movement from Zimbabwe that produces world-renowned stone figures.
Sculptor Stalin Gafura worked on a piece he calls “Whirlwind Spirit.” His grandfather was a pioneer in the African art form.
“My mother was his first daughter,” Gafura said. “Right now she’s one of the leading sculptors. She makes me very proud.”
Gafura grew up surrounded by works sculpted by this mother, his grandfather and his uncles.
“The result is, yeah, I am right now traveling around the world showing my artwork and trying to share my culture with other cultures,” Gafura said.
Despite a modern history ravaged by war and disease, such as AIDS and cholera, the artists of Zimbabwe send forth into the world a message of respect for elders, for nature, and for family.
“Very often they express hope and belief and all the values that we hold most dear,” Guthrie said.
“Chapungu” is the name of the Bateleur eagle, revered by the Shona people of Zimbabwe.
“It’s a messenger of the gods, it’s a protecting spirit, and it’s a spirit that brings harmony and good luck to people,” Guthrie said.
Get to the Chapungu Sculpture Park by taking Interstate 25 to the Loveland exit at Highway 34. The park is located just east, next to the promenade shops of Centerra. Follow signs from Centerra Parkway to Skypond Drive and the park, the warehouse and gallery are located several miles west of I-25 on Boise Avenue.
For more information, go to chapungusculpturepark.com, or call (970) 461-8020.
Every Saturday through spring and summer free guided tours of the Chapungu Sculpture Park will be held. Beginning in May, also on Saturdays, Marcey Mushore will perform “Music on the Mbira,” a traditional Zimbabwean instrument used in the ceremonies of daily life. She will also do storytelling.