It has been a tough year for Zimbabwe’s sculptors. The fall-out from the COVID pandemic still reverberates worldwide. One unexpected consequence is that many of the regular customers who are wholesale promoters of Zimbabwean sculpture have failed to show up this season.
Clearly, with the cancellation of shows and exhibitions over 2020-21, their stock levels were still high and many seem to have taken the decision to postpone their next buying trip. Not good news for artists who depend on foreign customers for much of their income.
Tim and Emma from Guruve continued to visit Zimbabwe throughout the COVID pandemic, whenever the travel restrictions were lifted sufficiently to allow safe and legal travel. So, our purchases have helped keep our selected artists’ cashflow ticking over during these troubled times. For that, we give all our customers a huge thank you for your financial support – since this directly translates into us spending money in Africa, and that’s what Guruve is all about!
However, this season we could see the dramatic decline in visitor numbers was severely affecting many artists. So, at the end of our buying time we took the decision to make a cash donation directly to the Arts Centre for young artists. We have worked with them for over twenty years, and many of our established artists started there in their youth.
The Arts Centre is a self-funded and self-managed project that began in the late 1990s. Whenever a member artist makes a sale, 10% of the amount goes to the central pot to cover costs like electricity, water and rates. Not very glamorous, but essential! Lack of turnover meant they were spiralling down into debt. We gave them a gift of $500 – a lovely surprise for the management team. We suggested they should use it to pay their bills this time, as they have plenty of structures and equipment. We didn’t want them to lose their precious town centre plot!
A few days later, we were summoned to the Arts Centre and the entire management committee were there to greet us. [Pictured above, artists include: Wiston Nyakete, Tago Tazvitya, Ishmael Chitiyo, Tendai Gwaravaza (current Chairman), Timothy Gwaravaza]. To say thank you in person, to shake our hands, and also to give us a lovely sculpture as a thank you gift.
We were very happy to have been able to help.
We had already distributed over $5,000 in our annual profit share – US dollars cash given directly to the artists in proportion to their sales in the year that generated the profits. But this was a way of spreading the help to a wider group.
Later on, we also made the Arts Centre a loan to enable them to purchase a generator to cover periods when there is no electricity. Often, areas of Zimbabwe experience what’s known as ‘load shedding’, so the power supply is turned off systematically so what power there is can be shared across the network.
What it means in practical terms, however, is that the power is often off during daylight hours when it’s most needed and comes on from 10pm until 4am. Many artists find themselves having to do nightshifts to finish their pieces!
Again, practical help from Guruve – working with artists and responding to their needs.
Thanks again to all our customers through whom we are able to continue our good work on the ground.
Tim and Emma Haire