Beautiful Struggle and Burnt Offerings


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.

The Beautiful Struggle

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.

the burnt remains of “The Beautiful Struggle”

Johnson has now revived and reincarnated this piece for us, revealed below!

The Beautiful Struggle re-incarnated…

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!

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…

“flight” by Johnson Zuze…

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….

sketches, flight, handmade charcoal….

I start to take flight in my mind….

in my sketches

and on my paper…

Lin Barrie, monotype, “the thought of flight…..” charcoal and acrylic on 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,

sketching Giant African Land snail shells, found around my bush house in the Save Valley Conservancy…

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

Lin Barrie, “Giant African Snail Shells After a Fire”, acrylic on canvas, diptych, 2 x 2 feet and 2 x 3 feet

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…!!

My phoenix installation that I created after our bush fire, in memory of those burnt pieces that we salvaged from the lodge, having fought its way through yet another fire and now destined to renew itself…

Fire Fire….

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…..

leadwood cattle paddock fence posts

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!

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…

Burnt Offerings…

Bones, shells, “offerings” in the quest of finding ourselves, releasing our creative potential,

leadwood posts; boundaries and offerings, restrictions and freedoms…

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…..

Lin Barrie, Impala Skull studies, charcoal acrylic and oil on handmade paper….
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…

Take Flight….

About wineandwilddogs

Lin Barrie The Save Valley Conservancy stretches along the upper reaches of the great Save River in the south east of Zimbabwe. The Gonarezhou National Park laps against the southern banks of the Save River and between these two nestles the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. These three celebrated wildlife areas form part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, (GLTFCA)- a unique wilderness jewel which is home to the “Big Five” (endangered Black and White rhinos, elephants, buffalo, lion, leopard) and the ”Little Six” (Klipspringer, Suni, Duiker, Steenbok, Sharpe's Grysbok and Oribi). Endangered African wild dogs, Cheetah, Brown hyena, Bat-eared foxes and a host of special birds and plants contribute to the immense variety of this ecosystem. Communities around the GLTFCA contribute to innovative partnerships with National Parks and the private sector, forming a sound base on which to manage social, economic and environmental issues. This is home to artist and writer Lin Barrie and her life partner, conservationist Clive Stockil. Expressing her hopes, fears and love for this special ecosystem with oil paints on canvas, Lin Barrie believes that the essence of a landscape, person or animal, can only truly be captured by direct observation. Lin Barrie states: “Through my art, and my writing, I feel an intimate connection with the natural world, and from my extensive field sketches of wild animals, people and landscapes, I create larger works on canvas. Lin's work is in various public and private collections in South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Australia, England, Canada, Sweden and the United States of America. She is represented by galleries in South Africa, Zimbabwe, England, Kenya and Florida, USA.
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