Masimba Hwati: a budding genius set to go places

Itai Mushekwe



A GLASS bullet with the ability to carry both fragility and force; so is the persona of a humble and talented sculptor — Masimba Hwati — an eme

rging craftsman who has taken the industry to new heights.


Growing up in Harare’s oldest high density suburb of Highfield, a legendary low-income settlement that has produced prominent politicians, businessmen, musicians and sportsmen, most of whom have today reached their self-actualisation, Hwati never contemplated that in his life-time he would find a gold mine in scrap metal, plastics, wood, clay and foundry objects, all of which have become essential tools of his trade.


With these cheap and almost useless materials the young sculptor has managed to produce thought-provoking pieces of work using mixed media, a new artistic genre that has moved away from the traditional emphasis of art- form to the concept behind the work.


While many people today force themselves to pursue accredited professions such as medicine, law or astronomy, stone sculpture was not a wrong pick for Hwati as it has proved to be a meeting with destiny for the dexterous artist.


“I believe that every man is born for a purpose and every man owes his existence to the purpose for which he was born,” said Hwati.


“Every man is obliged to be productive not only for himself but the world at large. Therefore he has the capability of becoming a legend. When you identify the gift in you, start developing it. The more you become passionate, the more it consumes your time. So it’s about personal fulfillment and I have found my purpose in art.”


At only 25, Hwati has already stamped his authority on the industry and is among a new breed of artists such as David Chinyama and Munyaradzi Mazarire, who have moved to “redefine” art by demystifying some long-standing norms and values ascribed by society to its members.


Only last year, Hwati scored a first by becoming the youngest recipient of the National Arts and Merits Awards (Nama) for outstanding mixed media, thus becoming a milestone achievement for a sculptor who still has many years ahead of him.


Hwati said his work, which is predominantly a manipulation of clay, seeks to redress accepted norms and concepts in society by adopting relevant and “more customer-designed” concepts that can solve “present-day problems”.


The sculptor singled out the negative perspectives held by Africans who continue to see themselves as “being less-privileged mentally, morally and emotionally”, a belief Hwati wants to debunk because “this mindset has crippled us as a people”.


Hwati said he foresees his work soon becoming a revolutionary tool that will conscientise people about relevant issues and instilling a sense of self-esteem among the masses.


“I also want to contribute to the general development of mental health in Africa through art therapy.”


The ebullient sculptor however expressed dismay at the sculpture industry which he describes as “stagnant” as a result of economic vicissitudes bewildering many artists, thereby giving rise to mediocre products as sculptors aim at producing their pieces at the lowest possible cost.


Hwati, a terracotta specialist, attended Chipembere Primary School in Highfield before proceeding to Presbyterian Secondary in Mhondoro.


He was to return to Highfield where he attended his Advanced levels at Highfield High 1.


The artist, like a “mad” scientist constantly fighting with nature, continues to re-invent, thereby producing flawless pieces such as the Nama winning Worship, which was: “A more personal piece. It was an expression of worship to God for giving me a supportive mother.”


Worship was born out of clay, wood and kitchen cutlery. Another piece that has silenced critics is Songs of Kush, done three years ago and remains the artist’s personal favourite.


According to the artist, Songs of Kush describes the passion and limitations that African people have as lamented by its vibrant colours.


“The limitations are due to political, religious and social norms imposed by society in the name of maturity and order, yet this is naked oppression of one’s expressions.”


Although to some Hwati may be an example of a greenhorn, he has travelled the journey of a tried and tested stone veteran whose future appears bright given the fact that he is one of a few artists specialising in clay sculptures.


The artist, like a clever child cultivating knowledge from the elderly, has learnt from and is inspired by European-based seminal sculptor, Tapfuma Gutsa and his Harare Polytechnic College lecturer, Chiko Chazunguza, whom he credits for “Pan-African” work that “carries a drive of restoration of identity”.


Hwati has displayed his work in Botswana and Zambia and, together with an associate, is mulling opening an arts centre in the capital.


The sky is the limit for this young man.