Artist – Tapfuma Gutsa

Tapfuma Gutsa, perhaps more than any other of the second generation of Zimbabwean stone sculptors, has broken free from the traditions already established in this young movement. Often using a combination of materials, such as stone, metal, wood, wire, paper and string, he strives to express contemporary as well as traditional ideals to a local as well as an international audience. Born in 1956 in Harare, Tapfuma Gutsa was educated at Driefontein Mission School in Zimbabwe, and later became the first recipient of a British Council award to Zimbabwe.

 

With this scholarship he studied for three years at the London School of Art, England (1982 – 1985) and was awarded a diploma in sculpture. He had always been interested in art, particularly sculpture, and even while still young took decisions that were to shape his future. He chose to attend the Driefontein Mission School in order to be taught by the respected sculptor and teacher Cornelius Maguma; and he broke away from family expectations when he made the decision to leave his father´s construction company and pursue his ambition to become a full time artist. The years in England were difficult to a young man new to the country and way of life. The formal art education he received there was to form many of his opinions on the role of art in society in general, and to fire his enthusiasm in helping the young people of his own country – a commitment that endures today. Evidence of his experiences in a wider international art environment can still be found in his work. With each piece he seems to challenge afresh the established concepts of Zimbabwean stone sculpture. The challenge goes out to international art audiences and fellow Zimbabwean sculptors alike. For many, he has been a powerful role model and young sculptors such as Dominic Benhura, Garrison Machinjili, Fabian Madamombe, Wencelous Marufu and Jonathan Gutsa all cite Tapfuma as their major influence.

Tapfuma´s sculpture speaks easily and powerfully to an international art audience, with a vocabulary, which reflects refreshingly new techniques. His work is often politically charged and is capable of great poignancy, but is always challenging, both in terms of visual imagery and idealistic belief.

His work also argues convincingly against the claim that this new African art form should remain free from outside influence. In his opinion, ´´the Western world has long borrowed from Africa so I find no problem in borrowing from them´´. The imagery in his work is not borrowed from contemporary European culture, but actually represents much of today´s society in Zimbabwe – it is not restricted to portraying traditional cultural issues and is unafraid to speak of the current environment in his home country.

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