A Solo Stone Sculpture Exhibition
Heart of Stone Speaks the Life of Love
The Power of Love collection of sculptures by KUDZANAI KATERERE is a dangerous exhibition. It will make you feel.
Standing in front of a Katerere sculpture is an enchanting experience. The stone pulls. Your hand is drawn to the skin of the stone because you have to feel it.
Strange because you would think this form of art speaks to and through the eyes, but such is the nature of love isn’t it? It is tactile and it wants to be felt. Some parts are extraordinarily smooth and soft, others raw, rugged and exposed. Representations of the paradox that is life.
One of the larger, profoundly affecting sculptures in the collection is of a man carrying a dog. “I have been watching a lot of coverage of the Ukraine war on the news and I saw so many people fleeing with dogs and other pets in their arms. That is love”, Kudzanai gives context.
“In times of crisis happening all over the whole world, for example, pandemics and wars, I have learnt a lot of things. At last, I have discovered that love is a true weapon that can lead people to recovery. As an artist, I'm hereby letting my sculptures speak for me.”
Kudzanai’s parents divorced when he was very young. He moved with his mother to live with her parents. The loss of love left him with feelings and thoughts that he could not explain or express. So, the stones started calling out for him.
The Nyanga District of the Eastern Highlands in Zimbabwe where his grandparents lived was home to many traditional Shona sculptors. Kudzanai began an apprenticeship with a local master, Claude Nyanhongo when he was just a boy.
“I was mesmerized by the natural environment. I could see, in the stone formations, natural sculptures presenting themselves. I made my first artist’ chisel myself, from an old plough shaft and my first piece was of a face, looking up to the heavens. I still have it.”
To create something new and unique that stands out among generations of artists’ work and countless commercial curio productions that have been mass-produced in desperate attempts to leverage the nation’s artistic heritage to earn some money is not easy.
But by the age of sixteen, teachers at his school were already buying sculptures from him. “My grandparents were very poor and they could not afford to pay for school. They were very supportive and loving though. Thankfully I earned some income from my art. I became aware that people were drawn to my sculptures. They would seek it out from among hundreds of others and I started to realise that they understood what the sculptures were communicating. I had an important medium through which to speak words of truth and love.”
Early on in his career Kudzanai earned respect and acclaim as an artist in Zimbabwe.
In 2011 he had his first residential exhibition in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2016, commissioned by the Zimbabwean Embassy, Kudzanai Katerere came to Namibia to participate in a youth expo where he met internationally renowned sculptor
Dörte Berner. She became an important mentor and influence to him.
His work has been exhibited in Canada, Czechoslovakia, Germany, South Africa, the USA and the United Kingdom, featured on the BBC and honoured by the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and the African Millennium Foundation.
He is considered one of very few of the 3rd generation of Shona sculptors to have remained true to the ethos of the grandmasters of the stone sculpture movement in the way that he depicts the interaction between man and nature.
“I don’t know, when I go sourcing for raw materials, what I will be making. The stone shows me what it wants to be. I walk around with things in my heart and in my head and they find their way into the work”, Kudzanai explains his process. A process that is deeply personal and spiritual. His workshop and home contain many statues which he is simply not ready to part with, he says.
The faces of his sculptures look different from that of the traditional Shona statues. It is the face of love, he says. A vision that came to him in a dream. The cheeks are rounded squares. The lips prominent pouts. They look like love. And once you see that you cannot look away.
“Living in a world that is changing every day, economically, physically and spiritually; together we need to speak with one voice in order to reduce the world’s frustrations, failure and violence. I allow my art to speak by itself to the people and the community by bringing my feelings and my thoughts into a speaking stone.”
It is a message that he wants to take to the world and he is waiting for the platform that will take it there.
“I know that my art is important enough, good enough. I have seen how people react to it.”