In a remote agricultural region of Rhodesia, a unique sculpture colony is flourishing on a former tobacco farm.
In a remote agricultural region of Rhodesia, a unique sculpture colony is flourishing on a former tobacco farm. And the output of the Tengenenge colony, which is finding its way into art galleries all over the world, could play an important role in the development of Central African Art.
It began when Mr. Tom Blomefield, a farmer and ex-chrome miner, found a deposit of black serpentine rock on his farm. The rock was ideal for sculpting and Tom Blomefield tried his hand using an African gardener as a model. The gardener himself began turning out original sculpture. And before long, other tribesmen in the area, many of them migrant labourers, took up sculpting, and were producing talented and spontaneous work.
A nucleus of about 25 artists live with their families in traditional African homes on the farm. Their works are displayed in the bush, for visitors to look at or buy.
At different times 300 artists have been part of the colony. And the rather unusual crop of sculpture produced on the farm is doing better financially than tobacco.
One of the artists is now earning 2,000 Rhodesian dollars a year (GBP1,200 sterling) and that is after food, housing and materials have been paid for.
SYNOPSIS: In a remote agricultural region of Rhodesia near Sipolilo, a unique farm produces more than the normal crops of tobacco.
It is the creation of Mr. Tom Blomefield, farmer, ex chrome miner .... and sculptor.
In the long grass of the farm are hundreds of original sculptures -the work of the African artists of the Tengenenge Art Community.
Examples of their work are finding their way to world art galleries and are already contributing to the development of Central African art.
It all began about six years ago when Tom Blomefield's tobacco farm was in difficulty because of Rhodesia's dispute with Britain. At the same time he found an outcrop of black serpentine rock, ideal for sculpting. He used an African gardener as a model for his first sculpture.
The gardener became fascinated and was soon turning out sculptures of his own. Other tribesmen in the area, many of them migrant labourers, were encouraged to start carving stone. Now there are about twenty resident sculptors. More than three hundred artists have done some work at the colony.
Tom Blomefield supplies stone, sculpting tools and food and the sculptors live on the farm. Mr. Blomefield receives half of all sales. The colony's work is displayed it the bush. Many come the ninety miles from Salisbury, part of it along a dirt road, to look and to buy.
So, Mr. Blomefield has reason for satisfaction as he surveys what the Tengenenge Art community has created in the past few years. In the long grass are more than four thousand pieces - many dating from the early days of the colony. Styles vary but two themes are very popular...the spirit world and the guilt of infidelity. Many of the more grotesque faces belong to men possessed by spirits. The artists are also inspired by the animals they see around them. And the rather unusual corp produced on the farm is doing rather better financially than tobacco.