By Norma Tsopo
Shona stone sculptors feel their dying art is on the mend as tourists begin to warm up to Zimbabwe’s rich attractions.
Street sculptors in the eastern border city of Mutare revealed that there is an upsurge in demand for sculpts from across the country as they works are the souvenir artifacts of choice to most holidaymakers.
“We have been receiving orders from buyers in Harare and Victoria Falls indicating a rise in demand for our works and this is coming as tourist visits from Europe are said to be on the increase,” Phineas Chidzeya a sculptor a Beira road said.
He said their art was dying in the face of a fall in tourist figures as the country was avoided for alleged rights abuses and ruinous economic policies.
“This art form is only appreciated by international tourist and many artists had to leave the art as demand fell over the past 20 years and this are beginning to look better again,” Chidzeya said.
Samuel Marange another local sculptor claims that sculpts are now being shipped to Europe in a revival of a trading opportunity that offered rich pickings for sculptor in the late 1990s.
“It looks like we are now back in business and we are all excited. There is a container that was recently moved across the border heading to Europe,” Marange said.
The largely superstitious locals avoid purchase of the art form due to fears of buying spiritual add-ons to the pieces of art.
The art form is new emerging after the 1950s but was already in decline with fewer artists holding onto it as it become increasingly difficult to negotiate economically sustainable prices for their creations.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority recently revealed an improvement in tourist arrivals into the country whom sculptors consider their biggest market.
Overseas tourist market constituted 35 percent of arrivals prior to 1999 and figures went down to 11 percent of heavily depressed figures by 2006 and rose to 14 percent in 2017.
In the first three months of 2017, 479 718 tourists arrived in the country of which a paltry 27 433 were from Europe.