Supporting The Art Community in Tengenenge, Zimbabwe
1966 Tengenge village is founded by Tom Blomefield, former tobacco farmer and chrome miner. After suffering increasingly under the sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the Commonwealth on South Rhodesia upon the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Jan Smith in 1965, Blomefield looks for other options to gain an income for himself and his employees. Having had the idea to start an artistic career, this idea becomes concretized after meeting Crispen Chakanyuka, an established artist by that time, trained by Joram Mariga. Chakanyuka shifts his attention towards the huge stone deposits on his land and offers to show him the basic technics of stone sculpting. Consequently, Blomefield encourages his employees to start sculpting by using tools fabricated out of agricultural machinery and together they found the art community Tengenenge which attracts increasingly people from the surroundings and farther places of Zimbabwe
1968 first exhibition of Tengenenge artists in the National Galley in Harare which proves to be a big success. In those initial years, Blomefield of Tengenenge and Frank McEwen of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe have various forms of exchange but their relation deteriorates over time linked to increased competition and different approaches to art and the qualifications of artists.
1972-1980 Independence struggle (Second Chimurenga) war between guerrilla groups fighting for independence. Due to serious fighting in the area around Tengenenge, Blomefield and most of the artists leave the art community and go either abroad or in bigger cities. Josiah Manzi and his family are amongst the only ones remaining in Tengenenge. In that time, linked to the combination of sanctions and conflict, the only possibility to sell sculptures is to bring them to South Africa.
1980 Independence of Zimbabwe and the end of the conflict. As a result, the artists return to Tengenenge and the art community increases significantly.
1989 first exhibition in Europe: “Beelden op de berg” in Wageningen, the Netherlands, followed by an exhibition in Kasteel Groeneveld, Baarn (NL) in 1994. Consequently, the sculptures from Zimbabwe become known in the Netherlands and Tengenenge gets increasingly visited by Dutch art dealers.
1995-2004 exhibitions and sales all over the world. Especially before 2000 the Community is steadily increasing with up to 300 artists working in the gallery at times.
2007 Dominic Benhura becomes the director of Tengenenge. In the following years he promotes the art community and supports the artists through the difficult times of 2008, where the country faces food shortages and political violence which resulted in a drastic decrease of customers.
2011 Dominic Benhura gives over the leadership of the community to a management team of five artists.
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