Each time I count down to my departure for Zimbabwe, I find myself revisiting the same thoughts. Time in my home country feels like a cleanse. It’s an opportunity to reconnect to the things that make me who I am: culture and family. It’s a chance to practice my art where I feel most inspired and relaxed.
When I’m with my grandparents in the rural area where I grew up, I’m reminded of the cultural values they emphasized during my early years.
My hometown in the eastern highlands is the type of place where, growing up, there was one bus a week (now it’s one bus a day), just a few shops and bush. It was free of distractions found in the city. When not in school, I herded cattle with other boys, which incorporated childhood fun, like collecting wild fruit, sculpting animals from clay earth, and learning games once played by our parents and grandparents.
As a young boy it just seemed like a good time, but now I see that these things were related to our culture’s emphasis on the importance of family, respect for nature and spiritual beliefs. These are the things that continue to influence my work today, both as I reaffirm those values and as I explore the way they are colliding with the priorities of the young generation.
My grandfather was the first person who encouraged me to sculpt. I observed his artistic approach and technique and carefully listened to his guidance. But it’s the moral lessons and the respect for my culture that I now see as heavy influences in my work. The story behind a piece always includes an unseen layer — a memory, a lesson or a story — that has been shaped by my culture and upbringing.
When I’m sculpting at my studio in Longmont, Colorado, I often think about how my background and the things that influence my work can be seen as drastically different from those who collect my pieces. At the same time, I know that how I express something in stone can tap into universal experiences and emotions.
This is what is so amazing about the power of art.