A blinding white light obscured my vision. My ears rang from the piercing wail of a car hooter – a truck, perhaps? I couldn’t tell. For a moment, I felt as though I was in a state of suspended animation. A weightlessness of sorts: in limbo. Breathing became a great and painful feat. Every breath that passed through my dry, cracked lips felt like swallowing broken glass. Slammed forcefully into what I could only deduce was a deep, narrow gorge, with steep, towering sides, the feeling of weightlessness left me.
The wheezing of my shallow, painful breaths gave me an inkling of what was going on. The taste of iron and metal on my tongue was nauseating as it made its way forcefully down my throat; choking me slightly. I couldn’t feel my legs, although that provided me with no comfort at all. My left arm lay at an awkward angle, bent backwards at the elbow, the white of the bone was visible through the torrential flow of my blood. The contrast was sharp and gruesome, making me heave through what felt like shattered ribs. I tried to move but an excruciating pain burned through my body, like a fire iron, rendering me immobile yet again.
The ache was both harrowing and stomach-churning. Turning my face to the side to expel my empty guts, bile rose up instead, and burned its way through my already parched throat. Small black dots danced around my vision, growing bigger and bigger, until finally, my eyes rolled into the back of my head.
And then… blissful darkness!
I was jolted abruptly into consciousness by some veiled force; a feeling of total disorientation descended upon me. Sitting up so suddenly left my body feeling heavy and my mind vertiginous. With heavy limbs and a thumping headache, I attempted to get my bearings, while simultaneously taking a mental inventory of my physical state. There was an oppressive weight pressing down on my already heavy chest, offset only by what felt like a sudden shocking jolt delivered to my heart. The consistent thump to my chest caused my already rapidly beating heart to flutter – no… to palpitate, violently – leaving my chest feeling both battered and bruised. Lifting my right hand to rub at the abused flesh, I took notice of a painful pinching sensation in the crook of my arm. The feeling was one akin to having an intravenous central line fed into your arm, but that couldn’t be possible.
Glancing down at the arm in question, I saw no imaginary needle; only the soft, wrinkled skin of the crook of my elbow – but the pinching sensation persisted.
Furrowing my brows in confusion, I took note of more puzzling occurrences; a faint beep, beep, beep… rang in my head, only to fall into the background, as I caught sporadic clipped conversations: “… clear. Patient still not responding… give me 360 joules…”. The command sounded like it was coming from somewhere inordinately far.
“All clear!”, there it was again, followed by a shocking thump to my chest. What was the meaning of this? Was I hearing voices? How hard had I hit my head? Had I completely lost my mind? It was only during my decline into a mental breakdown that I deigned to study my surroundings.
It was the smell that hit me first. How had I not noticed it before? It was overwhelming! And now that it had gotten my attention, it worked its way into each one of my senses. My eyes began watering; my nose hair felt singed, and I gagged forcefully. The stench wrapped itself around me, almost like a living thing.
Brimstone. Fire and brimstone. A vague memory of high school flashes quickly in my mind: “…ah, brimstone,” intoned Mr. Mabala, speaking passionately to the uninterested group of pre-matriculants. Religious studies was not my idea of a good time, but the class was a breeze with its ‘no exam’ policy. “Reverently referred to in biblical times as ‘burning stone’, but now more commonly known as sulphur, it is found deep in the Earth’s core,” he said. “As a matter of fact, a number of books of the Bible often used it to describe hell. So, not only will you heathens be subjected to eternal damnation, but it also smells like rotten eggs down there!”, was his weak attempt at a joke, in order to receive some sort of gleeful reaction from the uninterested youth. Heavy sighs of obvious boredom were heard around the small classroom along with the shuffles of students impatiently waiting for the loud shrill of the final bell. Oh, how I wish I had listened during that lesson!
The echoing sounds of gnashing teeth and high-pitched wailing knocked me out of my reverie. Quickly wiping away the salty tears that obscured my vision, I stood on weak legs, aimlessly turning in circles, trying to find the origins of those haunting sounds.
My legs felt almost as though they were not my own, like they were borrowed. Admonishing the strange thought, I rid it completely from my mind. I had more pressing matters to attend to, like getting far away from this seemingly hellish place.
With scant visibility and rocky terrain, I couldn’t ascertain where exactly I was. Reaching for the imposing black rock wall at my side, I began looking for an exit. The walls were damp and the smell of must and rot permeated the dark, cavernous space. I must have been in a cave, an unbearably hot one at that. Sweat dripped into my eyes, stinging them slightly. It seemed that I may have been approaching the mouth of the cave as the heat became stifling, making it even harder to breathe.
The wails reverberated all around me and bounced off the cave walls. They were primal, guttural, and carried with them a debilitating sort of anguish and sorrow. Shrieking notes of pain and terror weaved themselves into the deafening cacophony. Had my hands not found purchase upon the slimy cave walls, I would have dropped to my knees under the unbearable weight of the suffering and torment heard from the relentless cries.
The gnashing and grinding of teeth grew so loud that it had begun to sound like the harsh screech of nails on a chalkboard. The jarring sounds shook me to my core, so much so that I had begun to gnash my teeth also.
I had made it to the mouth of the cave. The exit. Or was it just another door into a terror far more frightening than the screams of what seemed like thousands, if not millions, of tortured souls? The prospect of walking through the gaping maw was daunting; however, it had to be done, if I hoped to leave this place.
Scaling the side of the mountain on borrowed limbs proved to be an arduous task. I had slipped and almost fallen more than I cared to admit. Even drenched in sweat, and struggling to draw in my next laboured breath, I had made it out of that blasted cave. The sight before me had me wishing I had stayed in the cave. I had finally found the source of the disembodied keening.
I found myself traversing between two vastly different valleys. On one side raged an all-consuming, vicious fire, and on the other, a biting hail and snow beat down obstinately on the rough terrain. Thousands of what I assumed to be sinners bore the sweltering heat and the blistering cold. This went on until these tortured souls had had enough – whereupon they’d leap into the other, where the suffering continued, albeit in a slightly different way.
It was purgatory. An expansive pit shrouded heavily in ominous shadows. A vast obscurity teeming in all manner of things that go bump in the night. The shrill screams rose in crescendo and I could see why. Beneath the choking darkness, globules of inky black flames hung suspended in the air. Ascending high out of the flaming pit, then continuing its descent just as quickly. In each globe, was a soul. A singular human soul, damned to suffer burning in agony, as a solitary creature, without even the company of their fellow damned souls around them.
So distracted by my own musings, and the horrific sight that lay before me, I failed to take notice of the menacing creature that stalked my stationary form. By then it was already too late – a pair of what felt like burning hot, scaled, elephantine appendages, thrust me violently into the screaming chasm. My anguished scream faded into the deafening din along with all the others.
And then… I was falling!
A startled gasp ripped from my throat as I sat up abruptly. A bright fluorescent light blurred my vision, and a loud, incessant beeping noise, broke the silence. “We’ve got a pulse,” stated a loud voice to my immediate left. “Vitals are stabilizing,” it continued behind the face shield, draped in medical scrubs.
I was back. I was awake. It was a dream. While vivid and so life-like, it was naught but a lucid dream. Before the relief could settle my wary bones, an errant thought struck me. If it had been only a dream, then why did my back throb as though I had been burned by a pair of monstrous hands forcefully propelling me into darkness?
Mirroring The Times In Sculpture With David Ngwerume
I am sure we all can agree that the beginning of the year 2020 was a rude awakening wrapped in a global event for the books due to the Covid19 pandemic. Zimbabwean sculptor slash Lawyer, David Chengetai Ngwerume, took to his creative outlet to not only process but provide a map for future generations in the form of his work, ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic Collection’ that has taken the world by storm.
According to Ngwerume, art “…is a duty and calling…”
The 40-year old’s sculpting journey started in the humble communal lands of Musana in 1995 under the instruction of revered fellow sculptor Cosmas Muchenje. He continued to excel in his academic studies as well which led him to an LLB (Bachelor of Laws, Honours) in 2006 from the University of Zimbabwe.
According to Ngwerume, “Art is a duty and calling that I persistently continue using various forms mainly in Stone Sculpture in invoking thought into Humanity, share awareness with the contemptuous world.” Ngwerume’s sculptures have been exhibited all over the world from Hong Kong (China), Canada to the United States of America, and locally in Zimbabwe at the Hebert Chitepo Memorial.
“My ambitions are global so I am in for it; it’s not always about where you are but where you are going.”
The sculptor’s ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic Collection’ comprises of pieces such as ‘MJ’ inspired by the pop icon Michael Jackson, encouraging people to mask up and get vaccinated. Another piece in the collection is called, ‘We are Torn’ which encourages people to sneeze into their elbows.
He is currently working on two other collections:
- ‘Thy Next World Collection’ which addresses concerns pertaining to humanity as we move into the future;
- And ‘Taking the Reins Collection’ which looks at the advancement of the world through the relationship between people and horses and their loyalty to humanity.
Ngwerume’s art is a reflection of the times and he is not stopping any time soon. He is also responsible for the iconic ‘Scales of Justice’ sculptures situated in front of the High Court in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare and the second capital, Bulawayo. We got to chat with the sculptor.
- The first question is probably something you get a lot, but I just have to ask; how did you manage to find yourself in the world of law and sculpting? To us laymen, the fields look so vastly different.
I am a hard worker and I believe staying in work in both professions has made me invincible. The modern-day world is driven by skill and knowledge and it is acquired by putting in more effort.
“As a creative I also can tell you inspiration is everywhere, everyday life is filled with endless sources of influence.”
- Have you ever found yourself in a position to choose between the two (law and sculpting) or a situation where one had to suffer for the benefit of the other?
Never! My ambition has always been to do more and I believe amongst the many I do I can manage both. If anything my professions feed off each other in a way.
- What is the intention of your art?
To influence change in this world and make it a better place through various mediums from Stone Sculpture, paintings, installations and various other mediums in portraying contemporary messages that invoke thoughts into humanity towards shaping their moment in times and make this world move towards positive thinking.
- In a past article, it is mentioned that you draw inspiration from your experience practising law; can you remember the first case that inspired an exhibit? Why did you find the case worthy of being your muse?
The first case I got inspired by was a Domestic Violence case. It motivated me to do a painting titled, WOMEN – STRUGGLE from the CRADLE. It was the extent of damage this particular domestic abuse case had inflicted on those involved that moved me to create.
- In another article it is mentioned that you mostly use serpentine stone, why is that?
I use various types of stones in my sculpting, like Spring stone, Opal, Lepidolite and Granite. It all depends on the message I intend to portray.
- Would you say you have any sculptors who either they personally or their work influences your work?
I am inspired by many sculptors like Michael Angelo, Gustav Vigeland and Dominic Benhura to name a few. As a creative I also can tell you inspiration is everywhere, everyday life is filled with endless sources of influence.
- Sculpting isn’t really popular in Zimbabwe, how can you say the sculpting scene is in Zimbabwe? Is there a support structure from fellow sculptors or it’s more of finding your own way?
Zimbabwe in a nutshell is about finding your way, but the upside of today’s world is that it’s a global village. In this global village, if you do your best, the world will always notice. My ambitions are global so I am in for it; it’s not always about where you are but where you are going.
- Could you please try explaining to us the creative journey you took in creating your popular COVID 19 Gallery?
The COVID-19 Pandemic is a global event affecting us all, and as an artist, I found it prudent to play my part in capturing the moments and share my views on Awareness and Vaccination.
- In making the exhibit MJ, how did you hone in on making the sculpture about the U.S pop star Michael Jackson?
MJ was the first public figure to move around wearing a mask, and his actions were early warnings of our reality, where the air we breathe is not safe as before because of COVID-19. His messages then were foretelling.
- According to New York-based art dealer Shingirai Mafara, your pieces are going to be part of the United Nations World Health Organisation permanent collection. Such an achievement, congratulations! How does knowing your work will live on long after you are gone feel? One could call it time travel of sorts, conversing with future generations.
I believe art is a reflection of perception and I am grateful for such higher strides being attained through my ingenuity. It is humbling to know that my work will inform, maybe even inspire future generations all over the world.
- How has it been coming into contact with big art dealers like Shingirai Mafara and do you think that has or will affect your style or subject matter moving forward?
Such dealers inspire my work and further my will to create and give me higher hopes that my art will be seen globally.
- Your most recent exhibit, “Halt Child Marriages” is definitely one for the times. As a man, where do you think the root problem lies in Zimbabwe’s child-bride pandemic?
The issue when it comes to child marriages is pure ugly GREED. The greediness in those men is uncalled for, it’s dirty, it’s illegal and it is immoral to view the young Girl Child as an object. We need to right such wrongs, and I am more than happy to lend my artistry to the cause.
(All pictures used are courtesy of David Ngwerume’s Facebook)
Interviewed by Hazel Lifa
Serge Doamba – Deaf Artist Based In Senegal Making The Most Of His Visual Ability
My dream is to sell my art in other countries, especially in the US, but I have not found a way to do that yet.
Kiswendsida Serge Doamba is a deaf artist and art teacher in Dakar, Senegal. Serge, as he is fondly known, was born in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Born deaf, he was his parent’s second child, after his older sister had passed away as a baby. Later in his childhood, he bacame sick for some time around age 2 with a high fever, and he was unable to walk for a time. Says the talented artist, “When I got sick, my parents went to church and talked with the pastor, and I was healed. After I was healed, I began going to the school for the deaf in Ouagadougou, where I continued until the middle school level.” The humble, kind and jovial art teacher says that he really did not like school, and all he wanted to do was to draw.
Through the assistance of Angela Bednarczyk, Serge’s colleague, who was kind enough to translate sign language for us, we were honoured to be able to interview the inspiring young artist and teacher. Read on to learn more about Serge and his art.
You discovered your love for art at a young age, were your parents supportive of your passion?
Around age 7, I saw an older friend of mine drawing. I wanted to do the same. I realized that all I wanted to do was draw. I only had a pencil and paper, but I drew faces, cars, and other things in my world. Pastor Maxime, a friend of my parents, saw my artwork and he thought it was very good, as did my parents. They encouraged me a lot with my artwork.
Did you study art at school?
I did a lot of drawing while I was in school, and showed my art to my teachers who encouraged me, but I did not have any formal art instruction during those years at the school for the deaf.
What did you do when you completed school, and what kind of art did you specialise in at that stage?
In 2007, I traveled to Senegal with Pastor Maxime and his family. I thought I was there for just a 3-month visit, but Pastor Maxime thought I should stay in Senegal, and he found me an apprenticeship with Aziz, a Senegalese artist who did artwork with gourds. I began to work with him and learned how to clean, prepare and decorate gourds. He could see that I was a good artist.
What inspired your move to Dakar, Senegal?
In 2009 I met Mrs. Jane Penney, who encouraged me to come to Dakar and work at Ecole Renaissance des Sourds (ERS). I began at the school as an assistant teacher. I was very excited to be in a school for the deaf, and to be given the opportunity to teach and encourage the young students.
Did you always dream of becoming an art teacher?
I dreamed of going to a university where I could study art. I did not think about being an art teacher at that time. When I first came to ERS, I only thought about teaching the children, but after a few years,
we decided to have professional activities, and art was one of those – so I was able to begin to teach art. I was helped in this teaching by Susan Roese who was an art teacher in the US, and who came to work with us for a few months at a time. Then when I was in the US myself, and worked with different artists, I learned more and more about different types of art, and shared that with my students.
What do you enjoy the most about teaching art?
I love to work with deaf children and teach them how to express themselves through art. Being deaf, the visual aspect is so very essential, and so teaching the students how to express their thoughts and feelings in their art is very important. I want to expose them to many different artistic techniques, and the use of many different materials.
You specialize in gourds and acrylics. Can you tell us what interests you the most about the art that you specialize in, and what made you choose to do it?
My top interest is now in painting using acrylics. Painting caught my fancy when I was in the US, that is what I am really enjoying now. I have been able to try out different techniques with acrylics, and to develop a certain style of art. I like all of the things that I can do with acrylic paints.
I continue to do quite a bit of work with gourds. I very much enjoy the prospect of creating something out of each gourd that I purchase. Maybe it will become a lamp that sits on a table, or one that hangs from a metal frame. I use different types of tools to make holes and designs in the gourds. I also place glass beads in the holes, making very beautiful designs, especially when a light is placed inside.
The third thing that I like to do is printmaking. While in the US, I worked with a printmaker, and she was very encouraging. She provided me with all of the materials to create prints, but then asked me to plan my prints on my own, without her assistance. I have continued to create a variety of prints which are very popular.
In 2015 while you were in the United States you worked with 7 other artists. Can you tell us about that experience? What did you learn from it and what did you enjoy the most about it?
The artists included those who taught me about drawing portraits, drawing with perspective, painting Chinese water colors, acrylics with a palate knife, print-making, clay sculpture, and batik. I enjoyed working with each artist, and learning all of the techniques that they utilized in their art. Part of my art instruction was with Sue Hand and Michael Hiscox at Sue’s studio, where I saw so many different pieces of art, and especially Sue’s art, as she is a fantastic painter. I just wanted to work on canvas and use acrylic paints. That was the most significant thing for me.
My world was expanded when I visited the US. I saw trees and forests like I had never seen before, I visited the museums of Washington DC, and saw deaf friends in New York City. I went to a church for the deaf, saw Gallaudet University, which is a federally chartered private university for the education of the deaf and hard of hearing located in Washington, D.C., and visited the elementary school there. I saw that many people knew sign language and could communicate with me. I also saw completely captioned TV – one of the many ways that deaf people are helped in the US.
Also, seeing God’s creation, especially Niagara Falls, was one of the highlights of my trip. The falls never stop – the water just continues, and I was really amazed to see that. I loved the forests and the mountains, and all of the beautiful plants that I saw there.
Have you participated in any major exhibitions, and what has been the highlight of your career thus far?
For the past two years, women from the Dakar Women’s Group have selected my paintings to be in their exhibition and sale. That has been so very exciting to see my artwork shown and sold. I have also been able to sell my art at different places in Dakar – at an international school’s events, and at other events run by the Dakar Women’s Group. I am so happy to be able to see my art at these exhibitions and other places. It affirms my being an artist. Having others tell me how much they love my art, and buying it, has been such an encouragement to me and my work.
Do you face any challenges as an artist in Senegal, and more so as a deaf artist? If yes, what do you think can be done to address those challenges?
It is difficult to find ways to sell my art because opportunities are limited. Being a deaf artist, it’s a bit difficult for me to get involved in the art community of Dakar, which is quite extensive. I do not have other ways to sell my art right now, but my dream would be to sell it in other countries, especially in the US, but I have not found a way to do that yet.
I need to find other places in Dakar, that could sell my artwork, and also, with help from my friends in the US, find ways to sell my art there also.
What words of advice do you usually tell your young students who wish to become great artists like you?
I have one student in particular who is a very gifted artist. He has a natural talent for drawing, using a black or blue ink pen. I encourage him to not only do pen and ink drawings, but to try other media, especially acrylics, to broaden his knowledge of art. I am also encouraging him to go to an art school in Dakar where he will get professional-level training once he completes his education at the school for the deaf.
Currently, where can people find your work if they would like to view or buy some pieces?
I currently sell my art by posting it on Facebook on my page @SergeDoamba. It has also been available through the Dakar Women’s Group sale which has been online for the past two years. I also encourage people to come to my home and see my art. I am planning an art exhibition and sale at our school this December, and I look forward to everyone’s support.
I would like to find other ways to sell my art. If it is to be sold in other countries, I would need some way to have the art transported there, so I hope that one day soon I will be able to get some assistance with regards to shipping my art.
Interviewed by Gugu Mpofu
Artist Tsibisho Matsetela – Anything Can Be Art Supplies
I would be lying if I said adding a big gallery to the mix wouldn’t be the mother of all pluses
When you think of art and how it is made, ‘expensive’ is a word that comes to mind. For so long the art scene has been a sector for the rich who could afford to either buy or make the art. The cost of canvases and paints is one I am sure most African parents wouldn’t be able to meet or not see as worthwhile. But what do you do when the talent is there? Well, Tsibisho Matsetela is an artist whose work could be the answer to that question. The South African artist doesn’t need much but a lot of items one can find around the house to create his work; from maize meal to coffee, it all works.
Hailing from the province of Limpopo in South African, Matsetela has always been a creative. This first presented itself in dance back in his school days in the rural areas, and has morphed into inspired artwork. He describes himself as a visual artist with a knack for discovering new material to incorporate into his work.
What inspired the use of food in your art?
I have always wanted to be different; yes I make art, but there are so many other talented artists out there. It’s an influence in my work that has been with me since I was in school.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I get my ideas from my surroundings; the rainbow nation is a melting pot of inspiration, if one pays attention. Bare in mind, I don’t mean from the so-called ‘wow’ stuff which is out there, but simple everyday stuff. A lot of my inspiration also comes from other black South African Artists whom I look up to.
What is the craziest type of food you have used?
(Laughs) Maize-meal and coffee.
Any projects that didn’t work out or go as planned?
I really have to think, and not because all my ideas work out, (a pause). The most memorable one would have to be a drawing of Mr. Nathi Mthethwa, the Minister of Art and Culture which I attempted using IWISA maize-meal. Let’s just say the project came with unforeseen complications, but who knows, I might try again one day. It’s all a trial and error game.
How do you currently market your creations?
At the moment social media is my best friend, and of course if I can showcase at an event, I take full advantage of such opportunities.
Any particular artists that influence your art?
I would have to say Percy Maimela and Ennock Mlangeni, both are visual artists. Their work constantly challenges me to do better, be bolder, and think outside the box.
Any dreams of collaborating on a project?
Working with any artist is a big deal, and collaboration is a good way to get my creative juices flowing, but I would be lying if I said adding a big gallery to the mix wouldn’t be the mother of all pluses.
Any art gallery in particular at the top of the collaboration list?
Yes, Melrose Arch Art Gallery. It’s an amazing platform, and such an opportunity would get my art recognised, and most definitely set a tone for my career.
Where do you see your art in five years?
God-willing, I will most definitely be creating more and sharing my talent with the world. I hope to be working with renowned galleries not only in South Africa, but around the world.
Where can anyone looking to get in contact with you to buy your art or collaborate with you find you?
They can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find me on Facebook: Tsibisho Lesiba
or Instagram: tsibisho_artworks
Interviewed by Hazel Lifa
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