In the early hours of February 5th, 2011, Fanizani Akuda passed away. We have lost one of the most significant Master Sculptors of Zimbabwe, who was an active artist for 45 years.

In 1932, Fanizani Akuda, one of the pioneers of the Zimbabwean Master Sculptors, was born in southern Africa in Zambia. He came to Guruve in 1966 where he made the important encounter with Tom Blomefield. At first Fanizani Akuda was very reluctant to dabble in stone sculpting, as he feared to injure himself seriously. So initially he salvaged raw stone for the artist group surrounding Tom Blomefield in Tengenenge. Through his dedicated commitment and a lucky idea – Tom Blomefield gave him at the end of his engagement a starter kit of tools for sculpting  - so Fanizani finally got directly involved with this at the time very young art genre. Following his first attempts at working in this metier, he had an encouraging meeting with Frank McEwen, the director of the National Gallery, encouraging him to progress with this occupation. The works of Fanizani Akuda were shown during the subsequent years at exhibitions in South Africa, Malawi and South America. He thereby gained great popularity as a Zimbabwean sculptor and was able to earn his livelihood as a full-time artist. Today his creations are amongst the best-known and most liked icons of Zimbabwean stone sculpting.

Fanizani Akuda did put great value on an entire treatment of the stone – one cannot find raw or even unpolished surfaces on a sculpture of his. Merely in his group portraits in which he staggers single figures next to or above each other, he gives us an insight into the original form of the raw stone before his treatment of it. His style is one of the most idiosyncratic amongst the group of first generation artists. His sculptures are creatures of a species originated by him. Their extremely organic appearance attributes them with a natural aura, which distinguishes them from other examples of Zimbabwean stone sculpting. Fanizani Akuda’s figures seem to capture the essence of a living being that stands independently from mankind and wildlife. Their faces are always appointed with circular eyes halved by a horizontal incisive line (indicating closed eye-lids to protect them from chips jumping from the stone); and a prominent long nose evolving from the zygomatic arch of the eye area. For the design of the mouth he has generally drawn a horizontal thin furrow that counter-balances the more dominantly sculpted eyeballs on grounds of its length.  Occasionally and most often with regard to the portrayal of four-legged creatures the mouth is left open to give free sight onto a strongly arched tongue. His probably most outstanding formal achievement is the countenance of his „whistler“-figures. Here Fanizani Akuda modifies his prototypical face structure by exchanging the thin mouth line with a simple centrally placed borehole. This unconventional means of composing even enables the “whistlers” to appear as acoustic objects: By flipping a thumb over the sculpture’s mouth, one can create a flicking sound from the sculpture’s lips.

For decades now the international art world has been bedazzled, entertained and baffled by the creations of Fanizani Akuda, one of the most productive sculptors of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has lost a great artist and human being. May he rest in eternal peace.

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