Discover a Bit of Zimbabwe in Dallas

by Jordan Maddox on July 9, 2021 in Entertainment, Art, Dallas/Fort Worth,

You don’t have to leave Texas to get a taste of Africa this summer. 

At the sumptuous Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, visitors can enjoy the beauty of ZimSculpt – a vast and varied exhibition of sculptures by Zimbabwean artists – from now until August 8. 

From palm-sized pieces and towering sculptures reaching skyward to live demonstrations and a marketplace, the showcase is sure to enthrall you. (It did me!)

Part of this summer’s striking ZimSculpt exhibit, the calm sculpture of a woman facing upwards to the sky sits tranquilly at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Courtesy photo

Cultural Roots

The founder of ZimSculpt, Vivienne Croisette, has helped curate the exhibit with over 100 pieces around the Arboretum, complementing the beauty of the garden while representing the Shona culture. (A quick check with Cultural Atlas tells us that the Shona people account for the majority of Zimbabwe’s population and are made up of six culturally similar groups.)

“Zimbabwe” translates from the Shona language as “Great Stone House,” so it is fitting that the pieces that made ZimSculpt world-renowned are formed from different types of serpentine and semi-precious stone – some even weighing in at tons. 

Complementing the restive landscape of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, a figurative sculpture rises from the earth. Courtesy photo

The sourcing of these stones is also significant. Most are locally sourced in this southern African country and the mines used often provide jobs to miners from rural communities. From materials and sourcing all the way to the appearance of the final products, the importance of community is evident.

Exhibition Attractions

Inside the garden, you’ll find a marketplace to both buy art and learn about the history of ZimSculpt. The marketplace offers an array of small and medium-sized pieces that would likely be more suitable for indoor spaces while the large pieces on the property would be better suited for the outdoors.

For those who like to see how the sausage is made, this exhibition also provides an attraction that is atypical for a regular showcase: live demonstrations. Artists Passmore Mupindiko and Brighton Layson have tents set up daily where they work on sculptures so that visitors can watch the process every day until August 8.

The maternal figure is a staple in the ZimSculpt collection. It shows the importance of family and the strong role of a mother. Courtesy photo

The Artists

Passmore Mupindiko

Passmore Mupindiko is one of the live sculptors who will be at the Arboretum daily. Like many of the artists of ZimSculpt, Mupindiko took up art early on by learning from his family. “I first started when I was around seven years old,” he sys. Originally, Mupindiko was a woodcarver like his grandfather, but he was introduced to stone sculpting during an art show when he was younger.

Often inspired by animals – specifically birds and waterfowl – visitors can find Mupindiko’s tall, slender cranes ranging from knee-height to tall striking statements across the Arboretum’s grounds. 

Passmore Mupindiko can be found daily outside of the marketplace, hard at work on pieces. Here, he is sanding down the beak of a Springstone crane.
Photo Jordan Maddox

Brighton Layson

Brighton Layson can be found across from Mupindiko, also contentedly chipping away at his work. Some of his abstract pieces – including ones that are kinetic – show his unique art style and his history with engineering.

After studying sculpting with his brother, Layson decided to pursue engineering. Still, he never strayed far from the arts. “During the time I was in engineering, I studied making sculptures, too.” Layson says, speaking about staying in touch with the sculpting community. After 10 years, he decided to reestablish himself as a full-time artist and then joined ZimSculpt. Layson’s work throughout the garden is very recognizable as his signature work is Springstone sculpture of the female figure with large, leaf-shaped hair. 

Brighton Layson sits on the ground and chips away at a commissioned sculpture during his live demonstration. Photo Jordan Maddox

Dominic Benhura

A showcase of Dominic Benhura’s work can be found on the opposite side of the market as Mupindiko and Layson, although Benhura will not be present in person. His sculptures often depict parents and children, with the maternal figure a strong presence. Benhura wants his art to be understood universally, so he sculpts faceless figures doing everyday activities that anyone can relate to. 

“In Africa, it’s one big family and around the world is the same,” says the smiling Benhura. “We are created the same way.” The principles of life are the same, he adds, which is why his work doesn’t have facial features. It makes them more universally understood.

Dominic Benhura, one of the most famous artists of ZimSculpt, often focuses on lively muses like children. In this work he interprets children doing acrobatics. Courtesy photo

Take A Walk

This is not the average walk-in-the-park. Bring a picnic basket to relax on the hillside overlooking White Rock Lake, enjoy the carefully curated landscape, admire the incredible art and watch artists take a stone and create something beautiful from it. Whether you are a plant-lover, an art enthusiast or both, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden and ZimSculpt have something for everyone. 

A sculpture of two women’s faces relaxes, looking as if they are sniffing the air, pairs well with the tranquil and aromatic atmosphere of the garden.
Photo courtesy Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Cover photo courtesy Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Jordan Maddox is an Editorial Intern at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and a senior at the University of North Texas in Denton, studying Journalism. She spends most of her time writing, and fills any free time either out in nature or exploring North Texas for unique restaurants, coffee shops, museums and other activities.