Learning how to sculpt with the Mukomberanwas!

This was so much fun. Netsai Mukomberanwa (Kadenge) is a gifted sculptor and teacher. She grew up sculpting, infact all of her siblings did, since their father Nicholas, was one of the pioneers of Zimbabwean sculpture in the 60s and 70s.

I had a brief meeting with her at the NGZ where she was about to start a new semester of teaching. After seeing my interest in wanting to learn how to sculpt stone, she offered to sacrifice her weekend and have me over at her family home in Ruwa for 3 days. During these days she would not only teach me the technical side of sculpting, but she would answer all of the theoretical questions that I had about art.

I had been to the Ruwa home in 2009 with Hans, but my visit was brief and I didn’t not get to really know the family members. That weekend I was introduced to Laurence and Taguma who are two Netsai’s brothers.  I also got to interact with some of their assistants and watch them at work.

After a brief tour of the place, Netsai helped to pick a stone and started showing me the basics of sculpting.

Some of the most important tools are the Ponge, chasing hammer and rasps. I was taught how to draw on the stone using charcoal  and then to make a small outline before carving out the flesh of the stone. Prior to that, I watched Netsai as she made the base for my sculpture and listened to her tell me about the importance of ensuring that your piece can stand.

On Saturday and Sunday the form begun to emerge, but the piece was not quite done. So I decided to spend another day finishing the stone. Since Netsai had to work on Monday, Taguma graciously agreed to show me how to sand and polish the stone- two of the most important stages of sculpture.  So I spent a few hours sanding, moving from big to smaller grains of sand paper. Then I sanded with water and before we knew it, it was time to heat the stone so that we could polish it. Taguma started a fire and lay the piece on the ground next to the flames, as it heated up on one side he turned it over. Eventually we polished it with Cobra polish (which I brought with me from Zimbabwe). We had to polish it and let it dry again and again. Then when it was totally cooled and dry I had polish it again once I went back home.

I was so happy that I had made a simple piece within 3 days, thanks to Taguma and Netsai.I also learnt some of the names of stone, and tried to carve harder stone. Afterwards  Taguma took me to the Friends Forever farm where I met some sculptors at work and managed to interview them.

I have video footage of some of the process, sadly, I didn’t get a still picture of Netsai, but for now here is a picture of Taguma with one of his sculptures and FF.


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