Gunguo Farm hosts award-winning Zimbabwean sculptor

Stanley Mutanga calls his work in progress pictured here A Couple in Step, which depicts a couple “working together… in peace and love.” Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

After a successful opening in the spring, Gunguo Art and History Farm in Glenburnie is hosting a special guest this summer: acclaimed Zimbabwean sculptor Stanley Mutanga.

Mutanga has been a professional sculptor in Zimbabwe for over 30 years, and this is his first international excursion. He will be in Canada as a representative of the Simukai Sculpture Collective and will also be presenting a large collection from his home workshop.

In 2020, Mutanga said, he was named Zimbabwe’s top 3D artist, winning the National Arts Merit Award (NAMA) for his piece, A Tribute to the Mother of Generations, which is on display at Gunguo Farm. This is Zimbabwe’s highest annual honour for a sculptor and a remarkable achievement in a country known worldwide for sculpture. 

Over his three-decade career, some of his pieces made their way into Canadian collections. “My works which were sold in Canada many years ago are now calling me to that country,” Mutanga expressed. 

Mutanga arrived in Canada just two weeks ago to visit his friends and fellow Simukai members, William Suk and Gillian Kupakuwana, owners of Gunguo Farm. Mutanga is already settling into his role as “artist in residence” on the farm, though he laughs that it is hard to work in the heat that has accompanied his arrival in Canada, something he was not expecting.

Visitors to the farm can see him working on a current piece that was commissioned by a Canadian marriage counsellor. The sculpture, which Mutanga calls A Couple in Step,” depicts a couple “working together… in peace and love.”

The entrance to Gunguo Art and History Farm is just off Unity Road in Glenburnie. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Mutanga has more than a dozen sculptures now on display at Gunguo. His favourite is a helical gemstone carving, which he described this way: “If you go around the sculpture you see some lines which go straight to the base, but some are cut short. That is what happens in life. Some people pass away when they are still young. Some manage to have children. Some even become grandparents. I was trying to say that life will continue, even if you are no longer around. So when you are alive, try to do everything to your best ability, so that people remember you. Never make the mistake of thinking that you will be here forever.”

Suk pointed out that Mutanga’s visit is the next step in the vision that he and Kupakuwana had when creating Guongo.

“We have sculptures from approximately 20  artists right now: we have them on display, and we’ve set them up. But we’ve lacked the actual artists themselves; Zimbabwe is a whole ocean away. [Simukai Sculpture Collective] came together, and we decided that Stanley should come. We chose Stanley because he was kind of the founding artist of the Simukai group, the gemstone sculpture group. So he was also the natural first choice to come in and represent that project,” he explained.

Mutanga is at Guongo in a dual role: first to represent Simukai and the Bwedzvuku Gemstone Scultpure project that is a major part of the farm’s sculpture collection on display, and second to sell his own work in his own way. 

Chapungu Eagle a gemstone sculpture by Nicholas Kadzungura, on display in the Gunguo Gallery. The stone provides a natural beak and breast colouration, while it seems to capture and radiate the sun’s light. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Suk explained that “during the summer as people come, [Mutanga is] here, he’s actually carving, so people can really understand how the pieces are made… He explains each of the pieces — which, when the artists give the explanation, is a lot more authentic and compelling because they will have created it with that vision in mind. So when they can explain it themselves, then you get to know the real meaning. And then additionally, we’re going to be having sculpture lessons.”

Later in the summer, Gunguo will be hosting a sculpting workshop to allow some guests to experience Zimbabwean sculpting firsthand with Mutanga as a guide. Suk explained that guests will be invited to a newly constructed workshop tent set up on the farm to learn some of Mutanga’s skills.

“We have some people already who are interested, but we probably will have six to eight people per group… What’s really cool about the way we’ve structured that lesson [is that it’s] as if the participant is kind of starting sculpture in Zimbabwe… but using Canadian stone, so it’s an interesting mix… We’re going to make our own chisels,” Suk explained, saying that strong tools can often be found at thrift stores and can be repurposed for this endeavour. “That’ll be the first day, and it’ll be fun because we go out and see some local thrift stores.”

Next, he said, the workshop group will search the farm for stones, after a short guest lecture on the geological makeup of the area. Suk explained that, beyond the famous limestone that Kingston is known for, the area is also home to rich deposits of other minerals due to the expansion and recession of prehistoric glaciers.

I am a Good Boy by Gift Tembo holds a prominent place in the gallery. Tembo, who passed away recently, was a member of the Simukai project since its early days. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

“We have around 20 different types of stones on the farm because of the glaciers, so that’ll be day two… There’s 100 acres here, and people will actually be selecting their stones from the land. And we may bring in some soapstone as well, but it will be from the area,” he noted.

“And then the last three days, they actually complete the finished work,” Suk said. “That’s going to be really fun. I’m looking forward to it.”

This may be Mutanga’s first overseas trip, but he expects future travels. “I also sold sculptures to collectors in France, Belgium, and the UK,” he said, “so maybe I will be going to Europe very soon.”

The one-kilometre (and growing) sculpture trail at Gunguo Art and History Farm meanders around a 200-year-old limestone farmhouse and displays more than 100 sculptures. There is also a chic indoor gallery in a remarkably preserved century barn. Farm visitors often stay for over two hours; some guests take binoculars for birdwatching, while others bring a picnic. 

The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday, but visitors must book a viewing in advance via the website.

One thought on “Gunguo Farm hosts award-winning Zimbabwean sculptor

  • This gallery is worth a visit. Take a picnic basket, a water bottle, and some bug spray! You won’t regret it–the art is amazing.

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