HARARE - Gweru-based treble National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) winner Forbes Mushipe is scratching for a living to the extent of failing to put food regularly on his family table, a tragedy that befalls a number of artists in the country.
Mushipe used to run a lucrative chain of retail businesses in Mkoba, Gweru but due to a mismanaged national economy, he lost everything, save for his sculpturing talent.
“The economy has failed me. I am a hard worker but this country has proved me wrong. I have been reduced to zero and I am struggling even to cater for my next meal, not talking about monthly rentals — thanks to this dead economy.
“I sold my artefacts and ventured into retail business and when the shops were grounded due to hyperinflation, I returned to art but it is now a different story,” said the Zambia-born artist.
Mushipe, whose artefacts are displayed in various high-profile galleries across the world, also lamented poor support from corporates.
“Art used to be appreciated when the tourism industry was still viable and that is when we made money as artists.
“Now we are struggling, artefacts are not taken as collateral security by local banks hence we do not qualify for bank loans.
“At one time, I approached the Municipality of Gweru for a piece of land on which I wanted to build a house and arts workshop. I showed them awards (certificates) from National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) as proof that I am a nationally-acclaimed artist but I was shocked by the level of their ignorance in art.
“They (city fathers) did not even know what Nama is hence I did not secure the land,” said Mushipe.
However, Mushipe vows to remain operating from Gweru.
“Mkoba is a high activity suburb which I get inspiration from. I do not think I will make it right in my art career if I move away from Mkoba,” he said.
Mushipe told the Daily News that his only solace comes from God.
“The prevailing situation led me to surrender my life to God. I have faith in Him that one day things will work out again in my favour,” said Mushipe, who first won a Nama award in 2011 with his mixed media masterpiece titled Barika while Melodies from the Mermaid landed him another accolade the following year.
In 2013, Mushipe won the award with Nhapwasikana ahead of Johnson Zuze’s Barking Dog and Anthony Ngandu’s School Children.