Africville was a black community within the city of Halifax, inhabited by approximately four hundred people, comprising eight families. The original Africville settlers were former residents of the refugee settlements at Preston and Hammond Plains who moved to Africville in order to escape the economic hardships encountered on rocky and barren land. The refuge settlements were made up of the many blacks that had come to Nova Scotia over several centuries. In 1964, the city of Halifax began Africville’s relocation. Although the relocation was said to be a humanitarian effort to alleviate the socio-economic depression in Africville, many claim the relocation plan had more to do with removing the eyesore Africville had come to be, rather than a genuine attempt to improve the lives of its residents.
Although Africville is no more, it still thrives in the hearts and minds of many of the relocated. The sense of the family, community and continuity associated with Africville is the spirit we would like to honour in our venture. Continued efforts to “keep it alive and pass it along” through song and summer gatherings in the park that now stands where Africville once stood, shows the spirit of their survival as a community. Zimbabweans in the diaspora struggle to preserve their sense of identity, when their community identity no longer defines their existence. In Zimbabwe, the effects of historical colonialism and contemporary globalisation hurt our confidence and success as a nation in a critical way today.
We must embrace our cultural identity in order to help ourselves. Whether through music, painting, weaving, or sculpting, art is a beautiful way to do this. Artists celebrate our unique identity through music that reflects the changes in their communities, and remains strongly founded in our long and rich history of making music. Batik painters provide a lense by which outsiders can view form and colour from the Zimbabwean’s perspective. Sculptors create one-of-a-kind forms using only hand tools, working stone from the hills of the Great Dyke, an ancient volcanic ridge that runs through the middle of our great country.
Stone sculpture from Zimbabwe has been called ‘Shona Sculpture’, named after the largest tribe in Zimbabwe. Stone has played a fundamental role in the lives of Zimbabwean people for generations, whether for building houses or creating sculpture. It is fitting that Zimbabwe’s name is derived from the Shona phrase dzimba dzamabwe, meaning ‘great house of stone’. Zimbabwean sculpture became commercialised in the 50’s by the first Director of the Zimbabwean National Gallery, Frank McEwan, who saw the potential for artists to develop the means to continue this tradition. Hence, a positive relationship has been fostered between Western art-lovers and Indigenous Zimbabwean sculptors.
Today, the success of certain Zimbabwean sculptors, like Dominic Benhura or the late Joram Mariga, has granted the genre respect on an international scale. The profession is a dynamic and multi-faceted way of life, where artists engage with clients from around the world, often competing with many talented sculptors for a sale. Ultimately, sculpting is an empowering way to celebrate Zimbabwean culture while at the same time, earn a living. It is truly an intriguing and complicated industry. Africville remains the only North American sculpture business run and owned by an Indigenous Zimbabwean sculptor.
Sculpture out of Zimbabwe astonishes viewers, who must question their preconceptions of African art, and admit the incredible talent of the artists. In the increasingly depressing economic situation in Zimbabwe, sculpting is more useful than ever before. Not only does sculpting provide a career for many Zimbabweans, it also offers an avenue by which to express their concerns, reflections and desires in this politically tense environment. The subject matter of the work ranges from celebrations of womanhood, to birth and death. The natural world is another popular area of exploration for sculptors, who often use nature to represent Zimbabwe’s indigenous peoples’ rural roots and gratitude for ancestors. Sculpture celebrates Zimbabwean roots culture, and is a means to deal with present-day tribulations. The sculptures are un-pretentious, charming and unrelentingly positive.
Next exhibitions details coming up shortly…
The Dandaro Arts Centre offers workshops in Marimba, Dance and Stone Sculpting throughout the year and upon request.
Workshops are led by Chaka as well as Dandaro Arts Centre artists-in-residence.
If you are interested in participating, either as a learner or teacher, please contact Chaka.
Visit the dandarocentre.ca website for more details.
Contact Chaka Chikodzi +1 (613) 331-2198