Summer at the Dallas Arboretum is beautiful with the gardens brimming with colorful summer blooms and beautiful water features around to cool off. This summer is extra special as the garden is dotted with special sculptures – known as Shona sculpture, these contemporary pieces can be as large as seven feet tall and are hand carved from colorful stones that are as hard as granite. Over 2 billion year old stones glistening in colors of opal, cobalt and amethyst shaped artfully into different African forms, these sculptures are the most collected form of African art. They can be found at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Rodin Museum and in the homes of the Prince of Wales, the Rockefellers, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover and the late Michael Jackson.
ZimSculpt, a world renowned exhibition of modern Zimbabwean stone sculptures, featuring works by 300 artists has traveled all the way from Zimbabwe to Dallas. There are over 100 sculptures on display at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. On display from April 15 to July 31, this is the largest collection ever assembled for a show in the United States. ZimSculpt features exquisite sculptures of several dozen contemporary Zimbabwean artists, from different regions.
Zimbabwe means “house of stone,” and the country has a long history of stone carving beginning with artists from the 1950s who taught their children how to carve sculpture from stone, with this knowledge was passed down to succeeding generations. Vivienne saw these Shona sculptures first when she was working in a Covent Garden shop in London and fell in love with them. She move to Zimbabwe where she met her husband Joesph Croisette and together they founded ZimSculpt. The Croisettes work with about 300 sculptors to build their collection, and have held exhibitions in the UK, USA and Canada and have been invited to Bahrain and Dubai.
ZimSculpt Curator Vivienne Croisette (on the right) with Krista Bruton from the Dallas Arboretum
ZimSculpt is passionate about promoting the work of some of these Zimbabwean sculptors. They travel with 2-3 sculptors every year, who hold demonstrations and help build-up and breakdown the show. Vivienne mentioned how this is a great experience for the artists, both culturally and financially. They usually return back home to be able to buy a house and a car, from the proceeds they earn from the sales of their sculptures. Not to mention all the donations they receive and lifelong friends they make along the way. While I visited the Arboretum sculptors Passmore Mupindiko and Aron Kapembeza were setup at the Marketplace in the Pecan Grove to demonstrate their artistry by carving statues using chisels, hammers, files and sandpaper and were happy to talk about their art and the families back home.
Aron Kapembeza is one of Zimbabwe’s most successful and most represented artists; he is also a self-taught sculptor, specializing in Springstone and stone inlay. He maintains his studio and gallery in New Tafara, Harare. At a young age, he discovered that he could see the finished sculptures hidden in Springstone, and from that moment, a transformation began. He was chipping away a huge boulder, when asked what was it going to be – he took a step back, studying it further and said two women. His passion for the human form has made him develop his own expressive style – for example, taking womanhood from tender ages to motherhood. This can be seen in a wide range of gorgeous sculptures ranging from stylized to representational in the Marketplace and throughout the gardens.
Passmore Mupindiko started carving at a young age; his favorite medium was wood. After a life-changing visit to a famous art community called Tengenenge in Zimbabwe, he was convinced by the proprietor Tom Blomfield, to start sculpting in stone. He now creates all his work in stone, focusing on leaf bowls (used for attracting birds), slender guinea fowl, shells, and leaf heads. His work has been exhibited all over the world, including countries such as France, Holland, South Africa, Germany and Denmark.
Everything is done by hand at a high level with tools to chisel and carve the stones, and you can see the artists use the rasp tools, master the textures and polish it with 9 grades of sandpaper. Passmore was kind enough to let me try my hand at one of the stone, needless to say I barely got to make some lines on the solid stones. I watch in awe as Passmore and Aron, transformed blocks of rocks into women and birds. I could can see how much work goes into creating these works of art.
You can grab a ZimSculpt map that lists all the sculptures on display at the entrance of the garden. Visitors may purchase any of the sculptures on display in the garden, as well as the pieces created by the onsite artists in The Marketplace. Commissioned pieces can be ordered and made onsite by the artists. Don’t miss these beautiful Zimbabwean stone sculptures in Serpentine, Dolomite, Opal Stone, Springstone, some even have and inlay of semi precious stones.
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The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is located on the southeastern shore of White Rock Lake at 8525 Garland Road, Dallas, Texas 75218. The Arboretum is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. General admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 65 and older, $10 for children 3-12 and free for Arboretum members and children two and under. On-site parking is $15; pre-purchased online parking is $8.
A few more of my favorite sculptures from the ZimSculpt Collection