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Biography of Nicholas MUKOMBERANWA

Zimbabwe > Arts : Nicholas MUKOMBERANWA

Nicholas MUKOMBERANWA
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Biography :

Nicholas Mukomberanwa (Born in 1940 and Died in 2002), was a Zimbabwean sculptor.

Nicholas Mukomberanwa was born in Buhera district of Zimbabwe of rural parents. He attended St. Benedict  Mission and later Serima Mission where he studied carving and sculpture under Father Broeber. In 1961 he came to Harare and joined the police force, later making contact with the Workshop school of the National Gallery and its Director, the late Frank McEwen ex sculpture and curator of the Musee Rodin Paris who was appointed curator of the Director and curator of Rhodesian National Gallery Frank McEwen considered Nicholas to be one of Zimbabwe finest sculptors and compared him to many of the master of the past, he also said he considered Nicholas to be one of the greatest hard stone sculptors of our times.

Mukomberanwa's great talent lies in his ability to express human emotion with deep accuracy and clarity. At his one man exhibition in London in 1983, he was compared to Epstein, Picasso and Klee and was described as a Genius and a Great African Sculptor. Nicholas lived on his farm near Harare and continued to sculpt with deep commitment until his untimely death. He preferred hard plainly coloured stones and was fiercely proud of his own culture, which he depicts with great conviction in stone.

In 1989 Nicholas was the overall winner in the Annual Nedlaw/Baringa exhibition at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe and was chosen with Tapfuma Gutsa and Henry Munyaradzi to represent Zimbabwe in the New York exhibition Contemporary African Artists - Changing Tradition. In 1983 the Zimbabwe Government honoured Nicholas and three other sculptors with the issuing of commemorative Commonwealth Day postage stamps. In 1986 Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe, bestowed on Nicholas a special award for his contribution to the visual arts in Zimbabwe.

"There is one thing in my life that determines all else. I want to be a great artist - I want to work so I an express what I feel and think truly myself in my own way." A constant searching for new forms of description has resulted in some quite fundamental changes in direction within the work. In the very beginning his portrayal of West African images as well as scenes from the Bible were rounded and very simple. Work from the Sixties shows a much more stylised, patterned use of geometric as well as clear, curvaceous forms (the "feeling" behind these works, as opposed to any formal type of influence, has been described by Frank McEwen as "ancient near Eastern"). During the Seventies, using the hard, black Penhalonga Serpentine, the work became characterised by the confident use of sharp lines and planes, and of ambitiously abstracted form. Some of his most powerful sculpture was made in the Eighties and seem to combine elements of earlier discovery - nothing is wasted. Sharp lines and hard planes are used with confidence alongside sweeping curves and deeply etched surfaces. The aspect that so distinguishes this period of work is an absence of doubt and a conviction that can only come from genuine investigation and a courageous search, both of the internal spirit and of the natural physical world. He is both knowledgeable and proud of the Shona culture - it provides powerful motivation for his work and seems to demand that he strive towards the preservation as well as the portrayal of it in his sculpture.

Nicholas is considered to be one of Zimbabwe's most gifted and successful sculptors and is highly regarded internationally. His work can now be seen in the permanent collections of many international museums.


His works have been sold to museums and prominent collectors throughout the world including the National Galleries of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi; The Museum of Modern Arts, New York; The Museum of Mankind, London; The Field Museum, Chicago; The Volkerkunde Museum, Frankfurt and the Christiensen Fund, Perth, Australia.

During a time when it has been commonplace to maintain that no contemporary artistic expression of merit has its origin in Africa, Mukomberanwa's powerful sculpture has proved the opposite and suggested reservoirs of great expression still to emanate from this deeply spiritual continent.

Unfortunately Nicholas passed away on 12 November 2002

Last update : 07/19/2007


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