About Joseph Muzondo
Dambudzo Marechera was a Zimbabwean novelist, short story writer, playwright and poet. His short career produced a book of stories, two novels, a book of plays, prose, poetry and a collection of poetry.
Joseph Muzondo was born in 1953 and is considered to be one of the major talents of the Second Generation. Typical of may of these artists is the quest for original techniques and materials with which to describe contemporary issues. Joseph Muzondo displays this new-found freedom as he manipulates the traditional material of stone to startling effect, sometimes combining it with other media such as steel or found objects.
He left school relatively early but in 1981 joined the B.A.T.Workshops at the National Gallery in Harare and remained there for three years, studying a wide range of disciplines such as drawing, painting and sculpture. He then had the unusual opportunity of over seas training – textile design in Tanzania and etching and drawing skills in Austria.
During the war of Independence in Zimbabwe, however, Muzondo enlisted as a ‘freedom fighter’ and experiences from these difficult years colour and inspire his work today. If any one quality of his sculpture can be said to have originated from such times, it might be that his work is of a fractured, often temporary nature. The image of Zimbabwean stone sculpture is of skilfully carved, large upright pieces of stone -gentle on the eye and slow to reveal their meaning. Muzondo’s work shatters that conception.
With works such as Desperate Mother (1990) and Nuclear Catastrophe(1986) the viewer is presented with an immediate image – of disarray and pain. Instead of standing upright and inviting examination in the round, these pieces have a graphic, two-dimensional quality as they are constructed to lie on the ground. Desperate Mother is compiled from four, separately carved pieces of stone; each treated differently.
It portrays a mother lying on her side, breast-feeding her small child. Her torso and legs (two pieces) are roughly carved with small areas that are more finished and detailed. Her head, as a separate piece and the child are perhaps the most resolved aspects of the sculpture, but still simply described. The solidity and position of the piece tells poignantly of the mother’s lonely struggle with her infant – it is an impression that will weigh heavy on the viewer’s heart.
Nuclear Catastrophe, with its obvious embodiment of the artist’s experience of war, depicts in no gentle manner the hostility of man. Once more a construction, it comprises eight parts and employs stone,wood, steel and glass. Roughly he own and only suggested in places the viewer is left to piece together the suggestions: a body in pieces, pierced and horribly damaged. Despair emanates from the sculpture and the cold, weighty stones are a fitting medium with which to describe such a concept. Other works such as Unity (1988) and Bringing The Sad News (1990), however, speak of comfort and closeness and a sharing of human emotions.
The work of Joseph Muzondo is born out of great integrity – no idea or method is ever repeated for similar effect. As well as being a highly innovative and challenging sculptor, Joseph Muzondo is also a very competent draughtsman and printer. These graphic works have the same raw power as his sculpture. An artist in the widest sense,Muzondo serves as a compelling example to others of different disciplines, all over the world.