A member of the Shona tribe, Richard Mteki was born in Harare in 1947. His late father was a mechanic and his elder brother, Boira, was one of the first of the Zimbabwean sculptors whose work astounded the international art world when it first emerged following the setting up of a workshop school at the National Gallery in 1957.
As was not uncommon at that time, Mteki’s education did not extend beyond primary school. He did, however, display a talent for painting and even before he left school he had enrolled at the Nyarutsetse Art Center established by the late Canon Peterson, a pioneer in the promotion and encouragement of indigenous artistic talent in the country. At the Art Center he continued to paint and was also introduced to sculpting.
Following his brother Boira’s footsteps, and influenced by his example and success, Richard joined the Workshop School of the National Gallery. It was the establishment of the Workshop School of the National Gallery’s first director, Frank McEwen, which led to the emergence of contemporary Zimbabwean stone sculpture. McEwen encouraged Mteki, as he had done several other talented artists, and it was during this period (in the late 1960’s) that his work attracted public attention. When McEwen resigned in 1973, Mteki left the Workshop School and since then has worked independently.
As a sculptor, he is now more productive and successful than his brother. A recent public acknowledgement of his standing as a Zimbabwean artist of repute came in October 1982 when one of his works was selected as the gift to be presented to the Nigerian President by Prime Minister Mugabe on his state visit to that country. Many other distinguished visitors and art collectors have acquired his work. Richard Mteki is making a valuable contribution to the Zimbabwean stone sculpture movement.