Gutsa releases catalogue book

HARARE - Internationally acclaimed local sculptor Tapfuma Gutsa explores the Tonga ways in his new book, Mulonga: Deep Waters and Starry Skies, a celebration of the Tonga culture and heritage.

The book explores the Tonga people’s way of life, in particular how they earn a living and Tonga basketry.

He is interviewed by the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe curator Raphael Chikukwa in the book and talks about how and why he got into Tonga basketry.

“My love affair with the Tonga people comes from my mother who is from the Malawian Tonga. So to do this project is like digging into an old chest for me.

“The spiritual lines act like strings of beads and that is why I decided to carry out the research.

“I managed to carry out the research with the help from the Culture Fund. I managed to travel to Binga twice and the trip enabled me to research on these people and their culture,” he said.

Gutsa further said he was amazed by the way the Tonga people put together colours and weave.

“I have always admired Tonga basketry but when I was working at the National Gallery I took a closer look at a Tonga basket in my office. The patterns and the geometrical shapes and colours, in the Shona mythology Bvumbwe symbolised good harvest when it passes through your homesteads. After thinking of all these myths I started interrogating these myths through the Tonga baskets,” he said.

Gutsa explained Mulonga as a direct reference to the Zambezi River.

Gutsa has worked intensively with several institutions which include the Swedish embassy, Culture Fund, The National Art Gallery and others.

Swedish ambassador to Zimbabwe Anders Liden, said he was pleased with the fact that Sweden was contributing towards the local arts industry.

“Tapfuma Gutsa is one of Zimbabwe’s best known artists who has won a number of local and international awards and has exhibited widely in Africa and in Europe.

“For me it has been a great pleasure to know some of his work and to get to meet with him personally.

“He has made immense contributions to the visual arts sector in Zimbabwe. His works are not only at the helm of influencing young artists studying art but also transforming the face of Zimbabwean art.

“His works provide platforms which bring out not so well known cultural practices to minority groups,” he said.

Gutsa studied art at the London School of Art from 1982-85 and was awarded a diploma in Sculpture.

In 1988 when he returned home he organised the first series of Pachipamwe Workshops, under the Triangle Arts Model.

In 1997 he established the Surprise Studio, providing studio space for a new, young generation of local artists.

He has a number of awards which include Johnson and Fletcher Award, President’s Award of Honour, Nama Award and many others.

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