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Featuring Zimbabwe’s Most Prominent Sculptors

 

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“Mteki sees a boulder, walks around it once, and most often has completed the sculpture in his mind's eye”.

The sculpture of Richard Mteki

Born 1947, Richard Mteki was discovered by Frank McEwen, the legendary curator of the first National Gallery of Zimbabwe.  McEwen encouraged the talented youngster to continue his sculptural efforts, which gave him the confidence and motivation to pursue his artistic calling.  Mteki turned to sculpting full-time in 1973 and has been exhibiting consistently, with great success, ever since.


In 1986 Mteki was commissioned by the Zimbabwean Government to create a piece for the National Sports Stadium in Harare, a piece depicting the Zimbabwe national bird.  The sculpture was a massive undertaking, weighing over 1 ton and placed at the entrance to the stadium.  He was again commissioned by the Government in 1982 with one of his pieces being given as a gift by President Robert Mugabe to the Nigerian head of state on his official visit to the country.  In 1984 the government once again selected Mteki's work, on this occasion the piece was presented to the late Rajiv Gandhi on the opening of the Non Aligned Movement summit in Harare.


With impressive creativity and clarity, Mteki produces his sculptures with vigor.  To watch him at work is always an experience.  Mteki sees a boulder, walks around it once, and most often has completed the sculpture in his mind's eye.  Once the sculpting begins, he rarely interrupts his work until it is finished.  No drawings on the stone or models are made in preparation, no getting up from the boulder and stepping back to ensure that the proportions are right.  His unique style and clarity helped make him one of the most popular artists ever to hail from Zimbabwe.


Mteki's sculptures are generally peaceful, they do not disturb but rather leave the viewer feeling calm and content.  His work is filled with a gentle spiritual presence.  Usually small and compact their message is much larger than their scale.  He is much influenced by the natural shape of the raw stone, rarely disturbing the original form to any significant extent.  His approach invariably is to work deeply into the surface of the stone to create the features of his human, animal or metamorphic subjects.  His preferred medium is the rich, natural earth color of brown serpentine. 


Having been sculpting for over 30 years Mteki is a master of stone carving, the strength and fluidity of his lines constantly bear witness to his experience.  As a first generation sculptor, Mteki's work often draws on the traditional beliefs and folklore of his Shona tribe.  The shape of the raw stone is important to Mteki, choosing to work with the stone rather than impose his will upon it.  


A dedicated conservationist and deeply concerned about the plight of the rhino he participated in the Rhinowatch exhibition in London in 1994 and donated the money from the sale of one of his pieces to a conservation fund.  He possesses a strong social conscience and is eager to instruct younger aspiring sculptors in the methods of stone sculpting, as well as the greater social role they can play in the community as artists. 


Mteki's pieces have found homes with the Duchess of York, the Queen of England and have been exhibited and celebrated in virtually every major art venue around the world.

Richard Mteki