Feature: Zimbabwean sculptor pins visual arts sector recovery hopes on vaccines

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By Tafara Mugwara

HARARE, April 14 (Xinhua) — Dominic Benhura’s plans for the year were shattered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Benhura, one of Zimbabwe’s most renowned stone sculptors, spoke to Xinhua as he reflected on the past year and his inspirations for 2021.

The acclaimed artist said after receiving his Sinovac jab last month, and with Zimbabwe’s inoculation drive in full swing, he is confident that he can now focus on his work.

Benhura said he is expecting tourists to start flocking into the country as the government has taken concerted measures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

At the onset of the pandemic in Zimbabwe last March, Benhura told Xinhua that cancellations of global art exhibitions and travel restrictions had shattered most of his plans for 2020 since the visual arts sector relies on the normal flow of tourists who usually buy his pieces.

The sculptor expects demand for art to steadily rise again this year.

He said while the pandemic had ruined his travel plans for 2020, particularly attending exhibitions abroad, it did not deter him from continuing his work as he has remained productive throughout the year while working from home.

With vaccination in Zimbabwe and other countries under way, he is confident that the tourism industry and the visual arts sector that had been ravaged by the pandemic will soon recover.

“So we hope things are going to normalize and tourists will start flocking into the country again and I will also start receiving my Chinese friends who have always been supporting me for some years,” he told Xinhua.

The artist said he is looking forward to opening a sculpture park in Zimbabwe later this year that will attract artists from across the country as well as abroad.

The artist saluted China for availing vaccines to Zimbabwe on time, allowing the country to embark on its inoculation program.

“Whenever Zimbabwe is in trouble China always comes to help us,” he said.

Throughout Benhura’s four-decade career, he has received countless awards which makes him one of Zimbabwe’s most decorated sculptors.

Most of his pieces are crafted out of serpentine stone in traditional and contemporary themes, conveying emotions and the events and everyday struggles.

Zimbabwe’s tourism industry, which stone sculptors like Benhura largely rely on to drive sales, has been hardest hit by the pandemic, and the government is making concerted efforts to ensure the resumption of the sector.

With the country desperate to revive the industry, the government is making sure that all eligible and willing residents of the resort town of Victoria Falls, the country’s tourism center, are vaccinated so that the town can be marketed as a COVID-19 free destination to tourists.

Zimbabwe launched its nationwide vaccination campaign on Feb. 18 with Sinopharm vaccines donated by China.

The country has so far authorized the use of four COVID-19 vaccines — China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, Russia’s Sputnik V and Covaxin from India.

The country is targeting to inoculate at least 10 million of its 16 million citizens to achieve herd immunity. Enditem

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