Dominic Benhura: Views from Zimbabwean artists on #MugabeStatue


I reached out to some of my art and designer peers to find out their opinions on the #MugabeStatue. Interesting thoughts. I also added some selected tweets on the same issue.

Read the original post  Dissecting Dominic Benhura’s #MugabeStatue

Idiotic bid to make money

Yakashata(Its ugly), but I respect his idiotic bid to make money..or trying to find favour with a 93 year old. He wants to remain relevant to Zimbabwe yet the west is his cash cow. Its below standard, the Chitungwiza realism artist should protest..and looks like it will fall.

A statement to remain relevant

My first impression is that he is making a statement to remain relevant and get people talking about him. Creating controversy… making a statement so bold it becomes part of history. To me statues are a symbol of honour. This would seem like a statement of solidarity with the president by honouring him in a time when there are many calling for him to step down. I don’t think the slanting is cause enough for me to see it as a protest

Realism is not his style

To be fair, realism is not his style. You see the basic foundation to abstraction is realism, makes me think that Benhura did not go through it. As an abstract artist I really thought he has a really good style with those faceless sculptures, but adding features to faces and what not No, No, No! Clearly, those around the president, are always crafting ways of pleasing him by new and unique means, when the president visited Rhodes University earlier this year, the students were up in arms with the college to bring down the statue of Rhodes. I believe the crafter got it from that time and decided to please their master by reverse application!

It’s a correct interpretation

The artist remained true to his style. It looks clumsy though and am glad cause Bob is a clown. It’s lopsided and not beautiful. He could have made it ‘beautiful’. Bob is a stiff and soulless breathing corpse. Dominic agona (did well), how else should a collapsing chitunha (corpse) look? This isn’t his usual mother-and-child joy saka ndizvozvo (So thats, that).

Abstract style is reserved more to relaying concepts

Well the first question I had when I saw this was, who commissioned the statue, did the government ask him to make it or did he offer to create it for the president? Personally I believe that when it comes to representing people especially the right people who have achieved great things then that style that an artist needs to use has to be a lot more realistic and you really bring out the strength and the person, it can be exaggerated but it needs to be realistic. Abstract sculpture and other abstract style is reserved more to relaying concept of certain things so relaying the concept of striving for freedom or beauty that works perfectly but when it comes to representing an existing human being.

I think the abstract style of sculpture even illustration doesn’t really fit in that context. So I think the person who commissioned Dominic to work on the statue knowing that he has an abstract style are the ones who made the big mistake. Dominic has done nothing wrong. This is your style that’s how he expresses himself. You know this is how he creates his art pieces. I think the person who commissioned that should’ve known better and should have known more about art and the history of how leaders have been represented artistically throughout history.

They should’ve known that this is not the right artist for this job. What makes everything worse is just the current sentiment about the president this has made things worse because the semi abstract style has just made it seem like the president is being mocked. I definitely thought it was a veiled protest at first and I thought it would be one of those situations where after the old man has bailed, he’d come up and say oh yeah I remember that one time when we did the statue I knew it that’s why I did this and that. But i’m not so sure anymore. They should have asked Kim Jong III for advice on propaganda statues!

Wrong timing

Personally I like Benhura’s approach to his stone sculpture but this one didn’t sit well with me probably because of his subject yamdhara (the old man). The piece it self is not bad but I’m quick to criticise negatively cause of mdhara (the old man). The fact that it has a political figure who everyone doesn’t appreciate at the moment, ya ma one (Its problematic). To me this was wrong timing or he should have done a more controversial subject to uplift the spirits of the masses rather than praising a dictator. I don’t think its a veiled protest simply because it’s a reflection of his work. It’s more his identity especially on the slanting and balancing poses. Just go through some of his work and see the approach of his contraposto

Perspective of a child art

The latest statue by Dominic Benhura is quintessentially Benhura. If I understand his philosophy correctly, his approach to sculpture is from a perspective of child art, the aesthetic is in the innocence, naivety and melodic simplicity of its forms.This would have made greater sense as a private commission by H.E The President of the Republic Zimbabwe.

I must say I am happy to see our government taking artists seriously and putting money in their pockets.However ideologically the statue goes against everything the government has tried to reinforce about the stature of H.E The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Any semiologist worth taking note of will have you know that unsure balance is disempowering.

Most women depicted in photographs are either being supported or standing on one leg , or leaning over as if to accept domination (patriarchy). The rendering and proportions are inexact and in some respects comical. This must have been what those who administered the commissioning of this statue expected-if not then there is a problem. However it can never be guaranteed that the statue will mean the same for everybody. This statue may very well have other “meanings” to it..

It might venerate endearment of a head of state that is also accessible, humourous and benevolent. The only true measure of what Dominic Benhura’s statue means to Zimbabweans will be achievable epistemologically through a reception analysis. If there is no empirical inquest into what Zimbabweans feel the statue communicates ,there will be speculation to no end.

Pamwe aida kuudza mudhara kuti waakudonha bhobho (Maybe he wanted to tell the old man that Bob you are falling)
He is a businessman and he wants to use his chance. But chokwadi ndechekuti mudhori wakadhakwa uyo(The truth is that that statue is ugly). Hmmmm I am a bit embarrassed and am not sure about the wisdom of donating to RG at this time, he is a sinking man.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.