A conversation between Dominic Benhura (DB) a renowned Zimbabwean sculptor and Office of the State Residence (OOTSR) who commissioned him to produce a statue of the president to be erected at state house while he is still alive. This conversation gives us some context behind the sculpture that notoriously broke the internet in Zimbabwe

Also Read
1. Dissecting Dominic Benhura’s #MugabeStatue
2. Dominic Benhura: Views from Zimbabwean artists on #MugabeStatue Views from artists and designers on the statue.


OOTSR: Mr Benhura we were referred to you by a colleague of ours at the ministry of arts and culture who informed us that you are the perfect person for a project we want to do. We want to honour the President of Zimbabwe (Insert FULL Title) Robert Mugabe in a very special way. You have to create a statue that looks exactly like the president and it must be big, he must have his fist in the air, and we must be able to see his pan africanist ideals in the statue.
DB: Sir, thank you for such an honour, but I am not the best person to do this work because I am an abstract artist, and my work is not about a true likeness. You are better off getting a bronze cast from North Korea.

OOTSR: No, no, no my brother. The North Koreans said it would take 9 months to deliver to Zimbabwe, and i am sure you are aware that time is not on our side! Besides this statue has to be done by an indigenous artist because of our indigenisation policy. It has to be done by a black artist from Zimbabwe who is based in Zimbabwe.
DB: (Takes out one his sculpture books) This is the type of work I do. We can still depict the president in such a way that he is recognisable but in an abstract form.

OOTSR: (Closing book) Yes, yes, I know but it should not be very difficult to just bring out the likeness of the president, you are an artist, you can just put the glasses and moustache, you know he likes suits and ties so the statue must be wearing a suit and tie. We can’t make a statue of the president with no face. (Takes out a paper and pen and sketches). You see something like this?
DB: Its going to cost you $250,000 for me to do this work and I need a 50% deposit upfront. It will take 8 months to complete.

OOTSR: $80,000 kungo veza matombo! Iwe! You have to have it ready in 6 months. We are doing you a favour because you will get lots of exposure with this work! Its a privilege to be given such an opportunity to make the statue of the president. (Visibly getting angry)
DB: Okay so can you send me an official order for this work, with the brief clearly stated.

OOTSR: This IS the order. So you need to start now, you should be happy because we will do a grand revealing ceremony and you will get to meet the President and his wife and even have some photos taken with him and the sculpture so there can be no doubt that you did it!


DB: Here are the sketches of the sculpture I have three options here. Option one is…
OOTSR: I thought you had already finished, you brought me here to see these drawings? We don’t have time for games. Just take the suit from option one, the tie from option three, make the shoes a bit wider, make the glasses bigger and then make it all a bit more pan africanist



OOTSR: Yaaah! How big is that!
DB: 7,8m and weighs over 3 tonnes.

OOTSR: Why is it leaning to the side? It looks like its falling, and why is the Presidents face so long?
DB: (Insert artists convincing rationale here)

OOTSR: Okay you are the artist… Deliver it to state house on Thursday, the revealing is going to be on Friday at 9am.
DB: Do I HAVE to be there?

OOTSR: Yes for the handover and you will also have to say comments about the inspiration behind this piece.

And that is how we ended up with this #MugabeStatue, which has become a post modern iconic stature in Zimbabwean art…
This is my interpretation of how I think this could have gone down.


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