in 1946 in Guruve, Zimbabwe, Bernard Matemera is a founder member
of Tengenenge and has been for many years the symbolic leader
of the community. His uncompromising and powerful images are now
found in public and private collections throughout the world.
Matemera is acknowledged to be one of Zimbabwe's master sculptors.
He has spent his entire professional career at Tengenenge where
he occupies the position of figurehead amongst the artists in
International recognition and indeed a genuine appreciation in
his native country has been hard won. As a child Matemera showed
great talent at wood carving and enjoyed traditional rural crafts
such as modelling clay, but as with many other of today's master
sculptors, it was Tom Blomefield and Tengenenge that provided
him with the most significant change in his life - an introduction
to stone carving. Bernard Matemera quickly established an astonishingly
individual and powerful style to which he has remained true over
many years of exploration, hardship and success. His work has
become so uncompromising, indeed demanding (especially of international
audiences), that it often takes time before his strong African
imagery and subject matter can be assimilated and understood.
Animals, spirits, people and the creatures which inhabit his dreams
have faithfully provided him with subject matter throughout his
career. They demand attention, cannot be ignored and remain with
the viewer long after they have disappeared from sight. His reluctance
to discuss his work only serves to help the process of sending
the sculptures out on their own in the world, fully formed and
capable of communicating in universal language of powerful, emotional,
sexual, physical and culturally challenging imagery.
Mor, the author of "Shona Sculpture", describes Matemera's
work in the following terms:
African neo-expressionism, often represented in enormous and deliberately
grotesque dimensions, oscillates between the humorous and the
tragic." Many of his subjects bear the mysterious physical
trademark of three toes and three fingers - a recurring element
in the artist's dreams, but an actual physiological fact amongst
a community from which he began as an artist (being one of only
a few who remained throughout the war of Independence), but also
consistently faithful to his beliefs and sense of pride in his
country with its inherited cultural and spiritual ancestry."
Respected critic and expert of Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture, Celia
Winter-Irving, writes about Matemera's work with a deep understanding
of the community in which it is created:
is in these sculptures an unspent power and a reserve of energy.
They speak both of the force within them and the force behind
them. They are the product of great strength of mind as well as
strength of the hand; of a strength of will as well as a strength
of physique. They are indeed a celebration of the monumental.
the last few years Bernard Matemera has received tremendous critical
acclaim and international attention including the prestigious
award at the New Delhi Triennial in 1986, and the first prize
in the Annual Heritage Exhibition at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.
Matemera's sculptures are the subject of his dreams: animals,
spirits, people and creatures, and the ever present metamorphosis
Definite works include "Blind Man", "Great Spirit
Woman", "The Man who ate his Totem" and "Chapungu".
acclaimed, Bernard Matemera has been described as one the best
stone sculptors of our time.
"Chapungu - Custom and Legend" (2001), R. Guthrie and
"Sculptors from Zimbabwe", B. Joosten
more about the History of Shona Sculpture here]