Top sculptor Dominic Benhura says his decision to quit school nearly tore his family apart


After passing his Ordinary Level with flying colours, Benhura enrolled for Advanced Level to study mathematics, chemistry and biology. At the end of his first term in Lower Six, the artist announced that he was quitting school to pursue sculpture as a fulltime stone carver. He was staying with his uncle in Tafara and everyone at home was disappointed. Even his mother, who was running a vegetable stall in Chitungwiza, was pained by the young man’s decision. “I was literally hated in the family.

I had welleducated relatives and the society believed that academic pursuit was the only way to success in life. I had a passion for art and I could not suppress it. Even my teachers were surprised to hear that I was quitting school. Everyone close to me tried to advise me against my consideration, but I had made a final decision. I wanted to be a sculptor for the rest of my life,” Benhura recalled as he went down the memory lane of his career.

He had confidence because his part­time sculpting adventures since he was in Form One had been successful. After relocating from his rural home in Murewa to stay with his uncle in Tafara, Benhura had learnt the basics of sculpture from his cousin Tapfuma Gutsa who was a popular visual artist. He started earning good income from selling his pieces to the extent of paying school fees on his own since he was in Form Two.

He emphasises that he paid the fees out of choice, not lack, since his uncle could afford the obligation. By the time he quit school, he had made contacts in the industry and approached then director of Chapungu Sculpture Park, Roy Gathrie, for working space at the establishment. Gathrie was also surprised by the young man’s decision to quit school and advised him to reconsider his options. “After numerous visits to Chapungu, I managed to convince Guthrie to take me aboard. I had to move out of my uncle’s house in Tafara because there was serious tension over my decision. I relocated to Kuwadzana,but I was still to convince my mother that I had made the right choice.
Benhura then approached his mother with his brothers and showed her savings he had made before quitting
school. He wanted her to quit her market work and live on the savings.

At first it was not easy to convince her. We took time and did so much explaining. When she finally agreed,
she said she wanted to relocate to our rural home. I was against the idea. I wanted to find decent
accommodation for her in Harare and I had a vision to buy her a house.

“However, she insisted and I built a hut for her in the rural area. We agreed that she would only go there
periodically and we assigned someone to look after the hut. That year she decided to plant some crops in our
rural field and I insisted that she did not have to stay there for good. I had bigger plans for her.”
Sadly, when Benhura’s mother returned to Chitungwiza after planting her crops, she fell ill and died. Despite
the misfortune, Benhura remained focused and continued with his work. He had many people to convince
that dropping out of school was not a bad decision.

His works began attracting serious attention from visitors to Chapungu. He invested more time in his work
and his sales went up. Within a few months, he bought a house in Dzivaresekwa and moved to his new

He began globe­trotting and lifting the country’s flag in international exhibitions. His pieces stand in
renowned international galleries and his name is revered in most parts of the world.
In fact, Benhura has toured all the continents in his 36­year journey as a professional sculptor. When he left
Chapungu in 1994, he opened Dominic Studios, a gallery that houses sculptors, painters and fashion

He established the gallery after buying a house in Greendale and he has since acquired many properties
from the proceeds of sculpture. He has assisted sculptors at Tengenenge Arts Centre that he has worked with
since the departure of former director Tom Blomefield. Benhura still tours extensively and has colourful
memories about his international visits and exhibition.

Source : Herald

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