Filed under: Africa, artists, botanical garden, featuredarticle, sculptors, sculptures, stone carvings
Tucked among the rose bushes, ferns and shrubbery of the VanDusen Botanical Gardens are hundreds of exquisitely carved stone sculptures — everything from whimsical animals to family groups or mothers nursing newborns. This showcase of unique work, Zimsculpt, is an exciting exhibit of never before seen work by Zimbabwe sculptors. Vancouver is their last stop on a tour that started in England.
This new African art movement started back in 1950 when Frank McEwan of Scotland was appointed as the first director of the National Art Gallery in what was then Rhodesia. He quickly discovered the wide variety of native stone in Zimbabwe which was suitable for sculpting, and began to encourage Zimbabwean artists to carve in stone instead of wood.
Most of the sculpture is carved in one of the four ative stones. Butter jade (butterstone), is a creamy yellow colour with dark striations; Opal stone, a greenish hue with an almost translucent surface, sometimes speckled; Serpentine, varying from blackk, brown to green, orange and varigated ranges of hardness; and Springstone a beautiful dark stone that can be polished to a high sheen.
Since the ZimSculpt organization began to display these magnificent stone cavings, many of the Zimbabwean sculptors have gained international recognition. Proceeds from sculptures sold at the Garden go directly to the artists. Prices usually range from $150 to $5,000. Other proceeds go back into Zimbabwe.
You can watch some of the sculptors at work under a canopy just as you enter the Garden, at the start of the exhibit. They will be happy to answer questions and talk about the art movement in Zimbabwe. The show’s curator, Vivienne Croissette, selectsd the artists and art and works with the artists to place the sculptures in appropriate locations around the garden. ZimSculpt ends October 4, so be sure to see it. I spent several hours wandering the pathways of the gardens totally enthralled. There are hundreds of sculptures and each piece appears magically from hidden niches among the flora of the Gardens. Follow the arrows on the signs that lead you around the winding pathways. Maps are available at the Garden entrance.
5251 Oak St. (at 37th Ave)
PHOTO CREDITS: W. Ruth Kozak