Shopping in Zimbabwe for SAKL 2020
Purchasing Zimbabwean sculpture
Before each show, Chris and Delphie travel to Zimbabwe to choose the sculpture they will sell at the next Sculpture at Kingham Lodge event. So, intrepid as ever just days after his 70th birthday, they hopped on a flight to Zim and visited the co-operatives at Chitungwiza and Airport Road that we have been supporting since our first Sculpture at Kingham Lodge show in 2012. These days, the artists know we are coming and carve like mad in the preceding months, hoping we will choose their work. Chris tries hard to buy something from everyone so that the whole community benefits from this shopping experience, as well as the additional funds we have sent out over the years to provide a borehole for water, a shelter to work under protecting people from the beating sun and a wheelchair to Mukuwiri Manners.
The Trip, Delphie Writes:
Zimbabwe in 2019
Here in Kingham we are about 12 hours from Harare on the swiftest route, by air via Johannesburg. However, thanks to British Airways striking on our travel date, we flew Kenya Airways via Nairobi and Lusaka, which as you can imagine with a 4 hour lay-over in Nairobi, took a little longer. Whatever the length of the journey, it is always worth it to arrive into the arms of friends in Harare and be whisked over slowly improving roads, to their comfortable house in a leafy suburb. I use the word comfortable, but of course every day is a struggle as there is little electricity, so you hear the rattle of the generator for hours every day to keep the freezer frozen, and no water has come out of municipal water pipes for years. If you are fortunate you have a borehole, otherwise you have to buy water for a large tank somewhere near your front gate. Security is still an issue, so the electric (or battery operated for power cuts) gates are always slammed shut.
The spirit of all Zimbabweans is truly remarkable. Hundreds of thousands have fled over the borders to South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and beyond. Those remaining are coping in a country that has no currency. There is nominally a Zimbabwean dollar, but you can’t see them anywhere. Transactions take place over phones or on cards or if like us you are fortunate international arrivals, you have US dollars. If you have money in the bank they won’t give it to you. Still the Zimbabweans smile and get on with their lives.
It gave us great pleasure to visit Chitungwiza, the township outside Harare, where we support the sculptors’ co-operative by buying their remarkable works in a variety of Zimbabwean stone, and shipping them to Kingham for sale at Sculpture at Kingham Lodge. We hold this charitable fundraiser every 2 years as part of Oxfordshire Art Weeks. We met up with artists at Chitungwiza and Airport Road whose work we have bought before as well as meeting new men and women in this vibrant, well run and industrious community. I took pictures of the artists with their work and some video clips which are on the website and social media pages.
Sculpture at Kingham Lodge
The African works are displayed in our garden here at Kingham Lodge alongside the works of local sculptors and art from further a-field. We encourage all local schools to get involved and offer a grant so that the schools can buy materials or use a professional artist to work with the children, whose work is then displayed alongside professional pieces. We love to see the garden full of children, proud of their own work, and taking a keen interest in the sculpture-trail hunt we send them off on to check out pieces we think will particularly catch their imaginations.
After 4 days in Harare, enjoying all the gorgeous flowering trees, bauhinia, jacaranda, bougainvillea, the locally named scrambled egg tree and the bush known as ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’, we drove 3 hours north and then 2 further hours on rutted track to the Mana Pools National Park. Here we were fortunate to spend 4 glorious nights on the banks (literally) of the Zambezi River with crocodiles, hippos, elephants, hyenas, vervet monkeys, zebra, baboons, kudu, impala and eland all within feet of us. Just sitting outside our riverside cottage the animals walked past. One cheeky monkey made off with 4 slices of gingerbread the moment the table was unguarded. He zipped up into the mapane tree overhead and stood on the branch literally dancing with glee.
There are lions at Mana Pools, and we saw two beautiful lionesses, but with some relief I can tell you, we were not that close to them, but the animals roam freely. Zimbabwe is very dry just now and not expecting rains until late November or December. A charity was sending hay up for the animals as keeping the animals in the park is a major part of income through tourism. National Parks have no money and so the question is often asked, ‘where does their money go?’ It does not go on the maintenance of the lodges. The botch fix on the single loo cistern meant that the water flowed constantly. I managed a better fix so that water was not wasted, but we had to take the top off the cistern and plunge our hands into the water to pull up the mechanism to flush…. seemed better than wasting water, but there was no sign of any one replacing the cistern, which is what was needed.
We ate outside each night barbecuing meat with our torches and plenty of gin as the tonic is full of quinine to prevent malaria…. and the cottage had a solar panel on the roof which powered a single bulb per room. Hot water was provided by burning a log under a water tank, which worked well, and the water was river water that had been filtered and which was, apparently, safe to drink. So we did. The gas cooker, like the outside table, had 3 legs, but a handy stone sorted that out and we’d taken our own camp chairs for game watching, so we were all set to enjoy the game and the stunning birds, the most magnificent of which were the carmine bee eaters whose flashes of red were like 18th century silk brocade flying through the sky.
Then it was the long drive back to Harare and tying up loose ends with the purchasing of our sculpture and shipping arrangements, now we await the arrival in Kingham of the container with anticipation.
Delphie Stockwell September 2019