Whoever lives or travels around Southern Africa has certainly marveled at the numerous ‘informal markets’, normally by the roadsides, where all sorts of works of art, by men and women, are sold by Zimbabwean refugees all across the region. Of these, the most noticeable are sculptures, most frequently in soap-stone, but also in wood, iron and other materials. These elaborated, often sumptuous, works of art, for which one would most certainly pay small or big fortunes in big city art galleries, will cost you ‘peanuts’ in those markets.
This is just one of the many facets of the current tragedy affecting Zimbabwe: thousands of nationals from the country, reputed as not just the “former bread-basket”, but also as possessing one of the biggest reservoirs of qualified people in the region, nowadays try to earn a living in such markets or through menial jobs in neighbouring countries, while being targeted by all sorts of xenophobic attitudes from the authorities and nationals of those countries – something not likely to figure in the agendas of the AU summits, at a time when the buzzword in various continental fora is one “United States of Africa”…
There are, however, as with everything in life, exceptions to the rule, and as much as you will find former Zimbabwean engineers, teachers and other professionals washing dishes as domestic workers in some middle-class household in a neighbouring country, you will also find many qualified and competent Zimbabweans well employed in institutions and companies across the region, the rest of the continent and the world at large.
The sculptures depicted above are just one such example: the work of Shepherd Ndudzo, a Zimbabwean artist based in Gaborone, they’ve escaped the roadside and were exhibited at local galleries and sold, well… not exactly for ‘peanuts’! To my chagrin, I couldn’t buy one, but managed to get from the artist one of the limited series of postcards made out of his fabulous collection of female postures.