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The Zimbabwean sculptor who uses art to encourage vaccination against coronavirus

Harare, Apr 25 (EFE) .- Above the wall of a landscaped house in eastern Harare, the roar of a grinder and a cloud of dust reveal the whereabouts of David Ngwerume, a sculptor and lawyer who uses his art to promote the Covid-19 vaccination in Zimbabwe.

The interior of the house, under an extensive shade created by the low branches of the trees, shelters a hundred of stone sculptures, of a realistic character and internationally recognized.

“I always wanted to be a sculptor. I grew up using nuts, objects and wood to create art,” this 40-year-old man tells EFE after an assistant helps him remove the white dust that covers his overalls with a hand blower .

“(Now with the pandemic) I began to think about the best way to get involved in what was happening,” he continues, “we, as humanity, must campaign: show people that vaccines work.”

SCULPTURES THAT TOUCH SENSITIVE FIBER

And that’s what he has done. Among his latest works, the sculpture “Brazos” stands out, in which from the middle of a woman’s bust – whose face appears covered with a mask – a bare shoulder emerges about to be vaccinated by two disembodied hands holding a syringe. .

Another work shows a woman whose head is carved in the shape of the African continent and who also wears a protective mask.

The polished black stone, dotted with grayish specks, is “springstone”, a type of serpentinite rock and one of the many local minerals – along with opal, chromite or lepidolite – that Ngwerume uses in his creations.

These and other sculptures have struck a chord both with buyers around the world – interested in his new “anticovid” pieces – and with many of his compatriots; while the coronavirus continues to expand in a country that has more than 38,000 official infections and more than 1,550 deaths.

“I discovered in me a growing desire to create something artistic that managed to convey a message,” explains this creator. “That’s what I believe in: that good art should inspire people.”

Many fear an imminent third wave of the disease, while the mass vaccination program, which began on February 18 with the solution of the pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, has inoculated some 330,000 people with a first dose, mainly health workers, clergymen, teachers or prison officials.

It is not clear why the distribution of vaccines has been so slow, although various local public health experts point to a growing “information gap” caused by an absence of clear messages about the benefits and effects of the vaccine, as well as misinformation in the social networks and misgivings of the Chinese remedy.

“If Zimbabwe aspires to achieve herd immunity by vaccinating at least 60% of its population – some ten million people – we need the combined efforts of all citizens, including influential people such as David Ngwerume,” Itai Rusike acknowledges to EFE. , director of the Harare-based Community Health Task Force.

“CONNECT WITH HUMANITY”

Ngwerume has worked as a sculptor since he was a teenager, with renowned mentors such as fellow Zimbabwean artist Conrad Muchenje, and combines this passion with a very different one, but one that, in his eyes, shares the power to give hope to people: the legal profession.

However, the restrictions imposed in the country since March 2020 to stop the spread of covid-19 forced him to temporarily close down his law firm, allowing him to focus even more on sculpture and sculpture. message of support that in these unheard of times I wanted to convey to the world.

“I had more time to grow as an artist and more time to connect with humanity,” he says from his workshop, watched from an old tire by a still unfinished representation of the late pop star Michael Jackson.

The mythical singer wears his characteristic wide-brimmed hat, white gloves and a mask. “(Michael) was so convinced that the air was not clean,” muses Ngwerume.

“It is ironic that people laugh at him for wearing masks and gloves,” he adds, “and now we are urging everyone to do the same.”

Oliver Matthews

(c) EFE Agency

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