Zimbabwean Shona sculpture in Centennial Park

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Featured artist Stephen Murenza carved on-site

Centennial Park in Beaconsfield hosted the eighth annual Shona D’Afrique exhibit recently. Over 150 stunning Shona stone sculptures from Zimbabwe lined a corner of the park thanks to ZimArt, an Ontario-based museum and foundation. Over 30 artists were represented in the exhibition.

This year’s “artist-in-residence,” Stephen Murenza, carved new pieces on-site. He also gave open-air sculpting workshops at ZimArt’s main gallery in Bailieboro, Ontario.

The section of the exhibition dedicated to Murenza’s work is located closest to the water.

Murenza selects his own stones from quarries inZimbabwe. But he doesn’t just pick up any old rock. “I do the communication with the stone before I start carving. So, the stone, it tells me what to do,” Murenza said.

Murenza said he likes to focus on “daily life basics” in his sculptures. His works that showcase human renditions are particularly breathtaking. He manages to incorporate sleek lines, technique and emotion in pieces like “With My Flock,” his centerpiece sculpture, which features a shepherd with two lambs.

Fresh off a successful exhibition inToronto’s Distillery District, Murenza and ZimArt curator and founder Fran Fearnley set up theBeaconsfieldexhibition on Friday, July 27 for a preview. Even then, patrons and couples admired the outdoor exhibit.

Fran Fearnley started her ZimArt open-air museum, the Rice Lake Gallery, in 2000 after volunteering for two years inSouth Africa. During her time inAfrica, Fearnley visited several Zimbabwean art colonies.

She felt the Shona sculpture she saw conveyed a positive message about Africa. “[Shona sculpture is] so beautiful, it’s so skilled.... what we can learn from it is to allow oneself to be free and open to other cultures,” Fearnley said.

In 2000, Fearnley hosted her first Canadian exhibition. The exhibition featured just 32 sculptures, but received a phenomenal response. “It’s very rare that someone goes away unmoved by the work,” Fearnley said.

An auction at 3 p.m. on Aug. 5 will generated funds for ZimArt’s current humanitarian cause, building a primary school in Maori Village, Zimbabwe. With $60,000, ZimArt has already built one classroom block, and with the installation of a second, Maori Primary will be a fully functioning school.

Remaining revenue from the sale of pieces on display goes back into the ZimArt system to continue funding the Rice Lake Gallery and the artist-in-residence program, which has been bringing one Zimbabwean sculptor toCanadaeach summer since 2001.

As this year’s artist-in-residence, Murenza has received 100 per cent of workshop registration fees, which he will use to buy a house back in Zimbabwe.

Dorvalresident Robert Morell and his wife Camille have been coming to the exhibit since its first year inCentennialPark. They have collected pieces for their home over the years.

 “It’s amazing…you see human and emotion in rock. It’s an inanimate object, but you see passion,” Robert Morell said.

The exhibit officially opened on July 28, and ended in Centennial Park on Aug. 5. Murenza remains in Canada until September.

Organizations: Rice Lake Gallery

Geographic location: Zimbabwe, Beaconsfield, Bailieboro Ontario Africa Maori Village Centennial Park Canada

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