Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The beauty of Zimbabwe blooming in stone at Toledo Botanical Gardens

“Mhoro” means “hello” in Shona, one of the languages of Zimbabwe. It’s a greeting spoken by Aron Kapembeza and Passmore Mupindiko, two sculptors who have traveled from halfway across the world to represent their nation, their culture, and their art, on display at the Toledo Botanical Gardens through October 29.

Representing more than 300 Zimbabwe artists, Zimsculpt, a company dedicated to sharing Zimbabwe culture through the medium of hand-carved stone sculptures, curated the exhibit with husband and wife team Vivienne and Joseph Croisette. Touring internationally since 2000, they have exhibited sculptures in the Middle East, the United Kingdom, Canada and several US locations.

Zimbabwe sculptor Aron Kapembeza posing next to one of his pieces.

House of Stone

“The name Zimbabwe means ‘House of Stone’, which makes this art form distinctly representative of the country,” explains Joseph. “We travel all over Zimbabwe and select a variety of the best sculptures to bring with us. There are so many talented sculptors; some have pieces represented in locations all around the world — in the States at the Atlanta airport, the United Nations, even the Queen of England is a client.”

An international clientelle brings the art’s important history to the world: “This art has been passed from generation to generation, with each group adding their own unique talents. Every piece is a part of Zimbabwe history,” said Joseph.

A great deal of time and effort goes into each sculpture. “The smaller sculptures can, maybe, take a week to make,” says Passmore. “It takes seven to eight hours per day, with some of the bigger ones taking as long as a month.” The attributes of each piece can vary depending on the style of the artist, and the type of stone it’s made from. Some of the pieces are more shapely and abstract, while some have extremely fine details etched into their surface.


Chiseling out their Niche

“Though we have more than 500 artists in Zimbabwe, every piece here is totally different. We each have our own inspirations and styles,” says Aron, who has been traveling with Zimsculpt for four years.

When asked what inspires his sculpting, Aron says “I specialize in human figures. I grew up with my mother, [and] the way my mother was treating me, I do appreciate so much.” His colleague, Passmore, having grown up in the countryside, has a different inspiration. “Me, I’m more into nature. I like to sculpt different animals, but the birds are my favorite.”

9am-5pm, daily.
On view through October 29.
Toledo Botanical Gardens
5403 Elmer Dr. | 419-536-5566 |

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