Chigwedere takes cultural transformation to parly

Itai Mushekwe



THE country’s leading sculpture gallery, Tengenenge, situated in Guruve, is set to present a stone lion sculpture chair to parliament this month

for use by the Speaker of Parliament, John Nkomo, independentxtra has learnt.


The gigantic chair, which weighs about 500 kg and crafted by little-known but dexterous Wilfred Tembo, a resident sculptor at Tengenenge, is a first of its kind in the world as the concept is unique and exclusive to Zimbabwe.


A presidential chair by the same sculptor for President Robert Mugabe is also on the cards.


Tengenenge gallery manager, Steve Blomefield, told independentxtra this week that the chair, which was completed in July last year, but had to wait for proper procedure before being taken to the House of Assembly, is part of efforts by Education minister Aeneas Chigwedere to bring about cultural transformation to parliament.


“It’s a cultural chair,” said Blomefield. “This chair is a gift from the people of Zimbabwe, particularly those in Guruve to parliament. It has never been done before. This is a completely new approach to making chairs. The chair is the lion and the lion is the chair. We are giving it to parliament free of charge and it is in line with Minister Chigwedere’s efforts to bring about cultural and ceremonial reform to parliament.”


Tembo chose to use the lion symbol for the chair because it represents strength, kingship, sophistication and the “spirits of Zimbabwe, which are called Mhondoro (lion)”.


The sculptor said the idea to make the chair was his personal initiative done for the love of his country.


“The idea was my own initiative,” said Tembo. “I didn’t demand payment because I wanted to show my love to Zimbabwe.”


Tembo added that the country’s history and sculpture reputation was his source of inspiration in carving the chair, which took him four months to complete.


Asked how he felt to be associated with the magnificent chair and what he hopes to achieve as a stone sculptor, Tembo said he was overwhelmed with joy and “I want my work to have longevity and for my legacy to stay forever”. Tembo was born in Centenary 41 years ago.


He started carving chairs five years ago although they were small in size. His works have attracted the attention of various galleries overseas. Only recently the sculptor produced a chair for the Korean ambassador to Zimbabwe.


Efforts to get comment from Chigwedere were fruitless as his phone was out of reach. Chigwedere is spearheading cultural reform at parliament, with some reports suggesting that the chair is the first step in this direction.


Tengenenge Gallery was established by Blomefield in 1966. The gallery embraces African art and has transformed farm workers into masters of a genre they had minuscule knowledge of, thus becoming a hotbed of creativity and talent.


Tengenenge is a Chewa word for “the beginning of the beginning” and is credited with producing Zimbabwe’s first generation of sculptors such as Josiah Mhanzi and the late Henry Munyaradzi whose works have graced galleries across the world.


The gallery produces a staggering 30 000 pieces of art spread over 16 hectares of land every year.

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