Benhura to build own Sculpture Park

AFTER spending more than 40 years stone sculpting, internationally -renowned and award winning sculptor Dominic Benhura, pictured, says it is time he builds his own sculpture park.

Benhura, 51, has exhibited at various sculpture garden parks around the world and he would like to utilise the experience gained over the years to create something special in Zimbabwe.

“In other countries these sculpture parks are a tourism attraction and tourists flock there just to enjoy the beauty of art,” said the stone sculptor in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday at his studio.

At Dominic Benhura Studio in Greendale, he works with his close buddies who include Eddie Masaya, Stanford Derere, Sam Kuvhengerwa and Lazarus Takawira, among others.
Locally, his stone sculptors are found at the Robert Mugabe International Airport, various embassies, and at Harare Town House offices among other public places.

He recalls in the early 90s when he made five gigantic pieces which he wanted to be part of his rich collection.
But all that was to change when he met the late music super star Oliver Mtukudzi at the Book Café who, at the time, was planning to build Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton.

“Mukoma Tuku said he wanted big pieces for his centre and I agreed that I would sculpt him some but he said he did not want new ones but those already in my garden. I told him it was impossible because these were not for sale and that this was a treasure for generations to enjoy in future,” said Benhura.
He says Tuku could not have any of that and convinced him that even at Pakare Paye Arts Centre, the pieces will still belong to Zimbabwe. He further promised to treasure them as much.

“I looked at the concept for his centre and Garden Park; I felt he deserved the pieces because after all they were not being exported; they will remain in the country and people visiting Pakare would benefit. 

“So I surrendered my entire permanent collection to him when he started building his centre,” said the stone sculptor.
Today, the pieces tower at Pakare Paye Arts Centre and to Benhura they are symbols of his friendship and association with Tuku “who called me munin’ina.” 

Benhura was also appointed as Patron of Tuku’s Solo festival, a gathering of solo performance meant to remember the late Sam Mtukudzi.

Benhura believes the stone sculpture industry is still healthy in spite of the difficult operating environment and has had successful shows, including one in Canada. 

Next year, he plans to hold two international exhibitions in Asia and Canada.
The stone sculptor is currently holding a month long exhibition at Amanzi Restaurant in Harare where he is exhibiting 40 stone sculpture pieces.

“The pieces in this exhibition show different possibilities in art and help upcoming artists; comprising different designs and approaches. It gives you a name as a young artist. As for this show, I said let me do it properly, I want something special that can showcase my 40-year long career in the sculpting industry,” he said.
Benhura says he is not into stone sculpture merely because of money.

“Artists in all fields are not making money but they are in the trade because they love what they do, be they poets or actors. They soldier on though and money comes as a bonus. 
“We have seen those artists who joined the industry looking for money and they quickly fizzled out. 

“While Baba Manyeruke sings gospel music and has been for decades, he might not be doing it for commercial purposes but out of passion. And he has survived, rewards are a bonus,” he said.

Benhura says piracy has been a cancer and it is killing the industry as there are young stone sculptors imitating their work and reproducing it in large quantities.

“They are mass producing and flooding the markets while selling these imitations cheaply. We know where they warehouse these pieces; who is behind it and the artists involved but we have no power (to arrest them).

“I have tried to fight myself and took one of these fake dealers to court; it was very expensive and after attending court for weeks on end the culprit was fined $50 and he went back to his trade. It is disheartening.”

The stone sculptor said there are more imitations of his pieces in Victoria Falls than the genuine ones.
Benhura blames the ministry of Arts, the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe and National Arts Council of Zimbabwe for not protecting genuine artists.
He said: “They have to protect the artists and our cultural heritage which is being eroded while everyone watches.”
Benhura believes art has to be part of the education curriculum from as early as ECD as this will also spur even local people to buy art.
“It is my hope and wish that children are involved in art at an early age. 

“At school and at home parents should take an active role as they will identify talent early. If they identify it then we encourage them to bring them here so that we fine tune them.”
He urged government schools to send children to his Greendale studios for attachment, noting that only private schools were doing so. 

“We only receive students from private schools and recently we had a student girl from Chinhoyi University who spent a year with us,” he said.
Benhura is also worried about the absence of female stone sculptors in the industry. 

“We used to have Semina Mpofu working with us but she is now teaching full time at International School and we have Ruth Nyandoro who comes over weekends when she is not at work.
“My appeal is for parents to let their children try stone sculpting. Because of gender sensitivities, there are a lot of buyers for pieces produced by women,” he said.
Benhura is proud to have been blessed with five children from two wives. 

“My first born twin sisters and another daughter are studying for degrees; one is in Poland studying Fashion and Design having completed a degree in Sociology in South Africa. 

“The other one is doing a Masters degree in Chinese Language and Culture having initially studied in South Africa before being given a scholarship in China where she has been studying for the last four years while the other one is doing law in South Africa. 
“My only son is more into ICT and is working on that degree,” said Benhura.


    Post a comment

    Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
    Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
    - Editor

    Your email address will not be shared.