In Tapiwa Mapuranga’s hometown of Nyanga, Zimbabwe — the birthplace of Shona sculpture — he fell in love with stone carving.
Learning from elders, Mapuranga’s experiences growing up in the eastern Zimbabwe town formed his creations. His sculptures took on the shape of what he saw and knew: loving families, the power of music and song, the deep connections borne from close-knit communities, nature — and the simple, beautiful joys of life.
Now, after years of honing his talent, Mapuranga, 51, is bringing his uniquely expressive style of Shona sculpting to the Peterborough area. He is the artist-in-residence at ZimArt’s Rice Lake Gallery — the first sculptor from Zimbabwe to make the outdoor gallery his temporary home and workplace since the pandemic began.
“Meeting the people here is just fantastic,” Mapuranga, a first-time visitor to Canada, told The Examiner.
Mapuranga’s work will be shown in an exhibition entitled Stories in Stone, which runs from Aug. 6 to Sept. 4, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Along with Mapuranga’s pieces, more than 200 sculptures, created by 50 plus artists, will also be on display at ZimArt at 855 Second Line Rd. in Otonabee-South Monaghan Township. They’re all available for purchase.
As the gallery’s artist-in-residence, Mapuranga is also leading a series of immersive workshops — a two-day introductory program and a five-day “master carver” program — for beginners and experienced carvers alike.
“I love teaching people what I know about my experience, so I’m sharing this with the people of Canada. Back home, I teach the young ones. I’ve also taught in neighbouring countries Zambia and Mozambique and South Africa,” Mapuranga said.
ZimArt owner Fran Fearnley, who founded the gallery in 2000 after being introduced to Shona sculpture in Zimbabwe, is thrilled to welcome Mapuranga after two years of being unable to host an artist.
“We very much missed not having a visiting artist from Zimbabwe. Being able to meet an artist and talk to them about their work makes for a very meaningful experience for visitors which they unfortunately didn’t have for the past two years, but they do now,” Fearnley said.
Fearnley, who travels to Zimbabwe and personally selects pieces that are featured at the gallery, said Stories in Stone showcases Mapuranga’s lively and emotive one-of-kind style.
“There’s an enormous amount of movement and energy in his work. He tends to focus on the human form, so a lot of his sculptures are about family, relationships, children, mothers, lovers,” Fearnley said.
With piece titles including “Family of Hope,” “Circle of Love” and “Receiving My Blessing,” she said Mapuranga’s carvings capture “feelings of dancing and singing and the celebration of life — positive pieces about the human condition.”
“We’ve had two tough years where we’ve perhaps become a bit insular in our thinking and I think his work really helps us to feel uplifted,” Fearnley said.
For Fearnley and the gallery, the pandemic posed challenges — the last two seasons were shortened — but new opportunities, too. As a result of COVID-19 the gallery spread out its displayed sculptures and introduced meditative “forest bathing” walks — two additions that will continue post-pandemic.
During the new exhibit, a Zimbabwean craft sale will be hosted on weekends, with proceeds going to ZimKids.
Guests can also support ZimKids’ Books Build Better Futures program for children at Māori Primary School in Zimbabwe — a project that’s being backed by Happenstance bookstore in Lakefield and private donors Scott Wilkie and Denise Quick.
Admission to the gallery is free. The gallery’s 2022 season runs until Thanksgiving Monday.
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner