Johnson Zuze, artist statement:
‘I create art using items of urban junk that collect from street corners and land fills. I give them new existence and present them with a lively presence beyond their primary use into poetic dimension.I learn how to handle tools from my father who used to make kitchen and hardware products using wire like iron stands, cuphookes etc. My early works were mainly made of wire. My interest in up-cycling was sparked after the burning down of our house in 2009.I scrouged through the remains and expressed my self in time of desolation. I came up with a piece called “The Beautiful Struggle” which earned me a runner up accolade on the occasion” Unity” an exhibition and competition sponsored by European union hosted at gallery Delta in Harare Zimbabwe in 2009′.
Johnson Zuze, friend, artist, calligrapher with wire and found objects- a true visionary and master of art……
Read his poem below about this original piece “The Beautiful Struggle”, created with salvaged pieces after Johnson’s apocalyptic house fire in 2009.
Life’s a beautiful struggle.
People search through rubble for a suitable hustle, some people usin’ the noodle, some people usin’ the muscle
Some people put it all together, make it fit like a puzzle.
Well, now to my story…
in the strangest synergy, at the Unity Exhibition at The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in 2009 where I was also exhibiting, I bought Johnson’s “Beautiful Struggle” – not realizing its history and provenance, and not knowing Johnson. To put it simply, the sculpture just spoke to me and entranced my daughter, Kelli Barker, and we had to have it. We just had an escaped land clearing/bushfire rage through and mostly destroy our Senuko Lodge in the Savé Valley Conservancy (also in 2009!).
The piece hung in pride of place in my Harare house/art studio, until it was destroyed a few years later in our own house fire, that started upstairs electrically after some crazy huge power surges from the local electricity supply authority. The flames destroyed Kelli’s bedroom and all her possessions, and raged throughout the house, until brought under control by wonderful friends and neighbours at Borrowdale Brooke Golf Estate. “Beautiful Struggle” was burnt, as was most of my own art and furniture, but wonderful rescuers on the day retrieved various precious burnt pieces and I stored these items, since they meant too much to me to just throw onto a landfill.
Johnson has now revived and reincarnated this piece for us, revealed below!
The Beautiful Struggle re-incarnated…
Most of my own art and furniture was destroyed in that fire, but wonderful rescuers on the day retrieved various precious burnt pieces and I stored these items, since they meant too much to me to just throw onto a landfill. Here is a vulture, ground hornbill or what you will, one of my favourite wooden sculptures attacked by that fateful fire….ready to take flight again, to rise like a phoenix!
My journey has echoed much of the perseverance, the need to re-define boundaries, to take flight, to re-invent and re-juvenate my art, my thoughts, after the various fires in my life, physical and metaphorical!
Developing my thoughts on flight, I take as a starting point another of Johnson’s sculptures which was burnt in my house fire, a flying bird, whose glass bottle body cracked in the extreme heat, but whose folded wire wings defiantly survived….
Johnson, dear friend, has restored this bird to flight for me… given it wings, colour…
Wings, taking flight…. my sketch book grows, as do larger sketches on art paper using my own handmade charcoal, burnt in my own hardwood fires….
I start to take flight in my mind….
in my sketches
and on my paper…
Flight, Fight, Fire and cultural tales of fire and survival, fascinate me.
Such as the Xangana story of why they revere the giant land Snail,
Giant African Land snails are my inspiration, my obsession, such symbols of resilience, beauty….they are sculptural icons, satisfyingly complete shapes adhering to ancient art principles
Fire is a great destroyer but also re-juvenates, cleanses…
and I keep a sketch book of ideas and dreams….
my burnt wooden bird sculpture needs to re-incarnate, to live again…
much like a phoenix rising from the ashes of life, of my house fire….
My phoenix installation that I created after our bush fire, in memory of those burnt pieces that we salvaged from the lodge, and singed again in yet another fire, waiting to renew itself…!!
Vulnerable to fire only, the iconic leadwood fence posts that used to mark the man-made boundaries of the over-grazed cattle paddocks in the colonial history of the Save Valley Conservancy, before they were uplifted to make way for a healthier ecosystem dedicated to sustainable wildlife landuse in this semi arid zone, are impervious to age and water and white ants, but are instantly destroyed by wild bush fires. So many of these great posts that supported the thatch roof structure of the Senuko Lodge, were lost during the fire we had at Senuko lodge a few years ago….
Hard as leadwood seems to be, indestructible though it appears, it is intensely vulnerable…..
Thank goodness many of these powerful sculptures survived the vissitudes of fire, and my plans are to create an installation of these iconic leadwood posts, each housing some Burnt Offerings in the notches, are slowly growing….in my garden and in my mind!
Pages from my sketch book..
Horns, bones, skulls, wood ……
Skeletons fascinate me, symbols of all that is left once the soft tissue of the body has disintregated, a symbol, a link between our earthly selves and our spiritual selves…
Bones, shells, “offerings” in the quest of finding ourselves, releasing our creative potential,
My found objects, my saved objects, skulls and burnt picture frames, are indicative of resilience, reflecting the fragile ecosystems around me, within me…
always I sketch, here is my found impala skull, possibly a lion or wild dog prey, the beautiful struggle of LIFE…..
“Burnt Offerings” indeed, “Beautiful Struggle” for sure……the cycle of loss, sacrifice and continued perseverance and faith towards the bigger picture……
Sketches ongoing, fascination with birds, with phoenixes, moving towards taking flight…