The stone sculpture of SaToro Tafura affirms the values and wisdom of Shona culture while reflecting themes that resonate with people from diverse backgrounds. Tafura harnesses his unique artistic sensibility to speak to and listen to stone, resulting in distinctly powerful sculptures that transcend time and geographical space.
Tafura was born into a famous sculpting family in Zimbabwe and is the grandson of sculptor, Claudio Nyanhongo, and son of renown sculptor, Agnes Nyanhongo. His education as a sculptor began in early childhood, as he observed the work of his grandfather, mother and uncles, and began to assist in the finishing process of their pieces.
“From a very early age, it was typical that I’d be surrounded by various family members sculpting and I became familiar with not only the techniques and the tools, but also the creative process and approach that I continue to use today. As a child, I used clay earth to sculpt cows, sheep and other animals; I was always exploring the world in a creative way. I remember sculpting one of my first stone piece around the age of 5. As I matured, it didn’t take long for me to realize that art could serve as a very powerful and personal way for me to communicate,” explains Tafura.
More than a decade ago, Tafura’s sculpture began to attract international interest, which led him to Germany and England, where his stone sculpture was exhibited for the next year. His work continued to gain attention, which brought opportunities to exhibit in areas throughout the United States, leading him to eventually move to the Bay Area of California. He traveled frequently to Colorado as an artist in residence at Chapungu Sculpture Gallery and for an exhibition at the Denver Botanic Gardens lasting several months. In 2008, Tafura settled in Colorado, where he enjoys a studio with a mountain view, reminiscent of the atmosphere at his childhood home near the mountains bordering Mozambique.
“By carving stone quarried from Zimbabwe and continuing the artistic knowledge of the generations that came before me, I feel a connection to my place of birth and my culture. As an artist, I also feel a tremendous amount of freedom to explore new inspiration and themes, influenced by my intercultural experience, my new perspective as a father, and my desire to maintain my culture in this rapidly changing society.”
Tafura sculpts almost exclusively with hand tools, maintaining a more intimate connection with each raw stone he works on. The most beautiful, impactful pieces are those that are driven by the unique, natural qualities of the stone.
“If I try to impose my own artistic ideas on a piece of stone, disregarding what it inherently has to offer, I miss out on capturing its full potential. There is power that resides in each raw stone and rather than competing with that, it’s my job to channel that power.”
He is the premiere Zimbabwean sculptor casting in bronze on a large scale. By using specially selected patinas, he’s able to achieve the look of stone while giving collectors an affordable option for indoor and outdoor spaces. This is particularly exciting for those looking for a large, life-size piece with the look of stone.
Tafura shows at numerous art fairs throughout the country each year, exhibits his work in galleries in Palm Springs, Santa Fe, and Boulder, and recently completed an artist in residency with Chapungu Sculpture Gallery at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Miami.
In 2017, he quarried a 16-foot tall chunk of serpentine stone in Zimbabwe, where he began the initial work on the piece before shipping it from Harare to Durban, South Africa to Houston, Texas to Denver, Colorado.
The 14-ton stone sculpture has been commissioned by a Denver resident and is one of the largest Zimbabwean stone sculptures created to date.
“In this sculpture, I am determined to express aspects of my culture that are being discarded in favor of U.S. and European values and ways of life. U.S. and European culture has its own value, but it’s something external – it’s not ours – and we are losing a lot when we abandon the things that give us a sense of identity and self-worth. I’m intent on reclaiming those pieces of who I am as a Shona person and an Afrikan.”
View an excerpt of a documentary on this project, including footage of the process at the quarry, extracting a 14-ton stone without the use of machinery.
InArt, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Ramey Fine Art, Palm Desert, California
SmithKlein Gallery, Boulder, Colorado
Xanadu Online Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona
Global Art Museum, Fort Collins, Colorado
2001 | Schloss Oranienstein, Diez, Germany
2003 | Royal Horticultural Society Garden, Hyde Hall, Essex
2004-2005 | The Linen Life Gallery, Emeryville, California
2004-2005 | Franklin Park Conservatory, Columbus, Ohio
2005-2006 | Bay Ventures Gallery, Hayward, California
2006 | KOFA International Art, Oakland, California
2007 | Oakland Museum, Oakland, California
2007 | MTCA Gallery, Oakland, California
2007 | Pittsburg City Hall, Pittsburg, California
2007 | Giungla Arte, Burlingame, California
2008 | Chapungu Gallery, Loveland, Colorado
2008 | Powell Gardens, Kingsville, Missouri
2008 | Big Sur Spirit Garden, Big Sur, California
2009 | Boulder Public Library, Boulder, Colorado
2009 | Chapungu Gallery, Loveland, Colorado
2011 | InArt Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
2012-2013 | Fairchild Tropical Gardens, Miami, Florida
2014 | InArt Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
2006 | Black Arts Festival, Huntsville, Alabama
2009 | Esalen International Arts Festival, Big Sur, California
2012 | Old Town Art Fair, Chicago, Illinois
2012 | La Quinta Arts Festival, Palm Springs, California
2013 | Old Town Art Fair, Chicago, Illinois
2013 | Sausalito Art Festival, Sausalito, California
2014 | Aspen Arts Festival, Aspen, Colorado
2014 | Beaver Creek Art Festival, Beaver Creek, Colorado
2011-2018 | Sculpture in the Park, Loveland, Colorado