Takawira celebrates women in sculptures

HARARE - Renowned stone sculptor Lazarus Takawira’s sculptures have over the years managed to promote the female image and issues affecting women.

Today collectors and buyers from all over the world beat down the dirt road leading to his farm studio in Ruwa, 30 kilometres from Harare — all in search of his priced female sculptures.

At the studio they are welcomed by this giant of a man, his diminutive and dainty wife Cecelia and a number of over-friendly dogs.

To talk to Takawira and talk easily, is to learn much about life, women, African culture and Christian commitment — all in a very short time. One leaves counselled and cleansed, purified, and a better human being with a better understanding of women and their immediate pressing issues.

Taking up the cudgels in his work for various causes and areas of human rights and the rights of women, Takawira is a Christian moralist and social activist.

“When Jesus was crucified on the cross the women were first to get there. Today women are also first to get there, in fields, in the kitchen and at workplaces. It does not matter where, as long as they are first and their men follow."

“Women have been known to control their husbands. They can manage marriages and homes,” said the sculptor.

Takawira said there was always art in his family and no one could resist it. “My wife Cecelia naturally was interested in everything that I did, including sculpture. She used to help me polish my sculptures and ended up sculpting herself. When I was poor, I needed help; she was my soul mate, my workmate as well.”

Takawira dedicates most of his work to his mother, Amai Alice Tichayewa whom he says inspired her artistically. “The themes are a measure of respect for my mother and what she did with her life.”

“Telling Stories” is a sculpture by Takawira which speaks of the stories his mother used to tell him when he was a young boy. In yet another sculpture, he praises his mother, who “was the family’s teacher, advisor and mentor.”

Takawira said it was not just a question of producing these sculptures, but that there is more to them than the messages they seem to convey. “The sculptures were a result of the passion for my mother, and my sense of sacredness about her life. My mother was a potter and made small heads.”

Some of Takawira’s sculptures depict the personal cycle of a woman’s life, the cycles of pain, and progress, tragedy and liberation, all cycles of distinctive colour and mood.

The sculptor also uses subjects like abortion and baby dumping. “These things, very sadly are part of a woman’s life today, so why should I leave them out of my sculpture which deals with women’s lives.
“Why should I ignore the baby which has been left at my doorstep, the sister who comes to me in tears after a ‘failed child’? I would not be a man if I ignored these things. I would not be an artist if I ignored them.”

He said the theme of abortion has been reflected in some of his telling pieces. The sculptor took part in an anti-abortion campaign just after Zimbabwe gained independence. He comments that in 1980 many girls were ‘‘baby dumping’’ and it was getting out of hand.

“As a Christian I believe that is against God’s principles to kill, and thus I made some ‘anti-abortion’ sculptures to highlight this deed. I believe God can use anything to advance his message, the trees, flowers and the birds that sing. In my universe the sculptures are the supreme beings and the female image is always king,” said Takawira.

And he manages to capture day-to-day episodes in women’s lives. Takawira has in the past made sculptures like “Pregnancy,” “Mother and Children” and “The Fighting Couple”.

“In my sculpture there is humour, love and also the conflicts and demands made on people in their daily lives. No day is altogether sunny, no sky is altogether blue. Conflicts and demands are part of what life is about, part of what you and I are about, so I put these things into my sculpture. And these things are part of women’s lives, sadly often the largest part.”

Takawira said he dreams of sculptures. “I dream that sculptures talk to me, sometimes with inflections about my Christian life, sometimes they tell me that I must be true and honest in the words I put in my sculptures."

“I might run out of ideas, but always I turn back to my ‘well’ of dreams and they bring me the themes, which expand the possibilities of some of the sculpture I can make. Some of my sculptures deal with women struggling with solitude, trying to cope with loneliness.”

The sculptor said while he has managed to sculpt hundreds of women images, most of them are linked to dreams and voices, calling across landscapes of suspended times. “I dream about sculpture around three times a week, usually when I am happy, the dreams are ‘suspended’ when I have problems.”

As a church pastor, much as his sculpture has been in the middle of his life over the years, his Christian commitment has been at the front and at the centre of his existence and his being.

Through a sculpture he makes his  testimony, his confession and admission of his faith and these things give an added depth and dimension to his more common themes.

“My career is a divine appointment; I bring the message of hope to people through my sculpture. In my ministry I teach the principles of good family life, as they are expressed in the Bible and some of my sculptures have biblical themes. In my sculptures I deal with family issues, and in my ministry I counsel people with family problems, couples with problems in their marriages.

“I feel today the absence of elders in the community to give guidance to young people has left them with no directions in their lives.”

Takawira said his work has proved to be unique. “My work is a unique collection of stories, prayers and dreams that pay homage to the past find meaning in the present and inspire hope for the future. I put together my faith, family life and career life,” he said.

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