Sculptor Takawira succumbs to Covid-19 Lazarus Takawira

Timothy Akuda Arts Correspondent

Prominent sculptor Lazarus Takawira succumbed to Covid-19 yesterday and will be buried today.

He was 69.

His friend Olivier Sultan confirmed the news on social media.

“I am terribly sad to announce the death of my dear friend, sculptor Lazarus Takawira from Covid-19,” he said.

The funeral wake is at his farm in Ruwa and will be buried today.

The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) director Nicholas Moyo described Takawira as a legend of Shona stone sculpture whose name is recognisable across the globe for his artworks.

“Our hearts were immediately filled with sorrow upon hearing the news of Lazarus’ passing. Our most sincere condolences go out to the Takawira family which has lost a father, grandfather and icon of Zimbabwean stone Sculpture,” said Moyo.

He said Takawira was a pioneering sculptor whose work is held in the permanent and overseas collections of the Zimbabwean National Gallery, as well as various public collections around the world, including the Musee du Rodin in Paris, The World Bank in New York, The Africa Museum in Belgium and the Museum of Mumbai, India.

“The death of Lazarus is a big blow to the local arts industry. While he began working in sculpture under his brother John’s guidance in the early 1970s over time his style, subject matter and approach changed considerably as he worked almost exclusively in Springstone, an exceptionally hard and heavy local stone that gave his work a beautiful finish,” said Moyo.

Born in Nyanga in 1952, he celebrated women through his sculptures.

His mother was a traditional pottery maker and he held her in great esteem.

Much of his career was themed on the woman figure and he openly voiced his love for the women in his life.

In the book, “Spirit of a Woman- A journey through the sculpture of Lazarus Takawira” written by the late Celia Winter Irving under the directorship of Marie Imbrova, the dominance of women in his works is made apparent.

Takawira belonged to the Nyanga group of sculptors which started under the guidance of the late god-father Joram Mariga. From the late 1970s Lazarus committed himself to stone sculpture together with his brothers they took a different trajectory from other artists favouring the hardest of stones like marble and dolomite leaving much of it in its natural state.

In spite of being brothers, their work was distinct. In common as brothers they had the same respect for the natural stone.

However, the difference was the crudeness.

Though Lazarus left much of the stone untouched, he concentrated on certain areas and refined them to produce a high quality and an unmatched standard of pure finish.

His work was also influenced by Frank McEwen, the first director of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

Takawira had much reverence for McEwen who was influential and encouraged artists to embrace their culture and infuse it in their stone works.

Takawira later took that to heart and enjoyed giving Shona titles to some of his sculptures like Muroora, Ambuya and Amai.

In between his journey as an artist, Takawira briefly joined the police force and later permanently settled down as a stone artist and became successful.

In the early 1980s through to the late 1990s he was living in Chitungwiza and later decided to work in isolation and settled on his farm in Ruwa where he enjoyed vast land displaying his works as if in a public garden.

As an international artist he travelled to different countries and exhibited his works. Some of his works were permanently collected by institutions like the World Bank, The African Art Collection Museum in Paris as well as The Prince Charles Collection in London.

During his decades’ long career Takawira was a recipient of many local and international awards including the National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) (2008), Award of Merit, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe (1993), Award of Distinction, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe(1991), Certificate of Excellence, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe (1990), Award of Merit, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe (1989), Certificate of Excellence, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, National Gallery of Zimbabwe (1988) and the Commission for Old Mutual, (1987).

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