HARARE - National Arts Merit Awards (Nama)-winning visual artist Johnson Zuze has an unusual fascination with dogs.
Zuze’s masterpiece The Dog and the Bone landed the 2015 Nama Outstanding Mixed Media gong ahead of a piece titled Xenophobia Pain by the Gweru-based treble Nama winner Forbes Mushipe.
In 2013, Chitungwiza-based Zuze competed in the Nama Outstanding Mixed Media category with a piece named Barking Dog which, however, was beaten to the top prize by Mushipe’s Nhapwasikana.
“Chitungwiza is a free area where even dogs are left roaming in the neighbourhood. This always inspires me and that is the reason why I have done several pieces on the theme of dogs. I was delighted recently because my fascination with dogs finally earned me an award for The Dog and the Bone, said Zuze.
The 30-year-old, however, pointed out that his artistic scope extends beyond the love for man’s best friend.
“I am not limited to dogs as I have some outstanding pieces on many animals and birds, one of which is The Egyptian Goose among others,” said Zuze.
As has become the norm with most artists, Zuze’s first venture into the world of art raised the ire of his parents who wanted him to pursue academic education as they wanted him to become a medical doctor.
“It was not an easy journey. I got into the world of art against my parents’ wishes and desires. I tried to convince them in vain. The Nama award I won in mid-February made my parents smile for a change,” said the artist.
In a bid to discourage Zuze from pursuing art, his parents destroyed his backyard workshop and replaced it with a barber shop.
“When I started collecting garbage from Chitungwiza dump sites, I guess the development did not go down well with my parents as garbage collection is generally associated with madness in our society.
“After they destroyed my workshop, I was forced to use Delta Gallery as my workshop. I created The Beautiful Struggle in honour of the Government of National Unity. Since then I have crafted 15 pieces that have received some form of recognition from various organisations.
“My profile grew when I joined Delta Gallery. Helen Leiros of Delta Gallery moulded me into a better artist. She is serious when it comes to work and she is connected globally which is good to me.
“Now, some of my works are found in countries such as the United Kingdom and I am beginning to see a big light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Despite making a name for himself in the world of art, Zuze is still regarded as a misfit in his home town.
“People in my area are used to stone sculpturing hence most of them regard mixed media art as very crazy. I am dating an artist who is in her final year at the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe who is better placed to understand and appreciate what I do,” said Zuze.