ZimSculpt at the Royal Botanical Gardens

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Words by Jay Kana
Photography by Ashleigh Stevens

The Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) is hosting the fourth and final year of the very popular ZimSculpt exhibit, which runs until September 30. The exhibit, which is curated by the vibrant and knowledgeable Vivienne Croissette, is filled with over 100 sculptures spread throughout Hendrie Park of the RBG.

Based in Harare, the RBG is the exclusive Canadian stop on this award-winning tour where you can enjoy the art, meet some of the artists and purchase these unique pieces.

I had an enjoyable couple of hours with Vivienne as she walked me through the entire exhibit. She created ZimSculpt in 2000 in Zimbabwe, and since then has consistently promoted both national and international artists. She initially only intended on spending three weeks in Zimbabwe to help increase the credibility and exposure of local artists, but seven years later, she’s made inroads across the globe and shows no signs of slowing down.

She receives no public funding and relies exclusively on sculpture sales to keep the business moving forward. There’s a strong sense of pride and excitement when she speaks of how the company started and how they travel worldwide showcasing these beautiful pieces. As we navigate the grounds, she points out the simple yet elegant exquisiteness of each piece.

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Everything on display is for sale, and beneath each piece is its title, the artist’s name, the medium used (i.e., type of stone) and the value. Each piece is selected by Vivienne, and no two exhibits are exactly alike. In true artistic form, she donates 5 percent of each website sale to Inter-Country People’s Aid (IPA), a community-based charity in Zimbabwe.

The majority of stones used originate from The Great Dyke, a 500-kilometre ridge over 2.5 million years old, and are quarried by hand. Think about that for a moment. The number of hours used to obtain these stones is absolutely astonishing. With the variety of stones catalogued exceeding 200, these pieces are one of a kind.

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Hundreds of Zimbabwean sculptors’ works are displayed every year, and while they are housed beneath a common umbrella, each piece on this RBG exhibit has its own individuality. I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Passmore Mupindiko, one of the two artists she brought with her.

He initially started with wood sculpting and gravitated to stone sculpting, as it allowed more freedom (there’s no grain in stone). Using at least 20 different tools, Passmore creates memorable, personal and gorgeous pieces of art that highlight elements of Zimbabwean tradition. He was roughly halfway through a new sculpture, a 12-inch by 6-inch leaf-shaped bowl that had taken him over two weeks already—great art cannot be rushed!

The ZimSculpt exhibit at the RBG ends on September 30, so I urge you to visit it while you can. Vivienne is more than happy to spend some time with you and you’ll quickly see, as I did, that her passion and excitement radiates with each word she speaks.

For more information, visit rbg.ca/zimsculpt, zimsculpt.com, theheartofontario.com and theheartofontario.com/canadian-heritage-passport.

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