[ The following essay has been adapted with the kind permssion of the Director, Chapungu Sculpture Park, from Chapungu: The Stone Sculptures of Zimbabwe (1995). All images © Chapungu Sculpture Park, Harare.]
Colleen Madamombe was born in 1964 in Harare and is fast becoming an established figure amongst the Second Generation of Zimbabwean stone sculptors. She has won the award Best Female Artist of Zimbabwe consecutively over the past three years and is considered amongst the finest new talents from this country.
The drive and hard - working determination prove so evident in Colleen Madamombe's sculpture has ensured her own, very individual style and choice of subject matter. Most apparent in her work are the themes of woman hood - from young girls, through pregnancy and motherhood to the authority of the tribal Matriarch. These themes provide continuing inspiration and she looks forward to portraying feminine experience through to old age. She is interested, not just in the emotional, spiritual side to a woman's life, but is also fascinated by the basic physical appearance and movement peculiar to her sex. This aspect of womanhood she depicts with clarity and conviction, revealing pride, authority, energy, endeavour, sadness, tenderness, and often humour. Although a quiet and very private person, she has strong feelings about the changing role of women in Zimbabwean society. She watches with misgivings as attitudes alter - whereas wider opportunities are developing for women, she feels that they are also losing their
28 positions of traditional respect. In her view, it is still quite difficult for women to pursue a career in the arts predominantly through an inherent lack of self-confidence but also because the idea of following one's own ideas and ambitions, or pursuing a profession is still alien to many Zimbabwean women, "A lot of women are artists and just don't realise it - making pots and other things for the home, and not for sale."
In some of Colleen's early works, she gave importance to seeminsJlv insianificant subiects such as ants. bees. butterflies and caterpillars. Madamombe admits to a fascination with the apparent humility of insects - a humility which she feels the human race has lost. Other creatures, such as the cat and the zebra have provided interesting subject material, but this fascination with the smallest of living things has seems to have endured; "the way ants move in lines particularly. I love to watch their movement." With all these subjects, she watches as closely as possible, but finally carves from a strong mental image and the memories she holds of the animal, insect or person.
Madamombe works predominantly in hard black Springstone, often using the outer blanket of the stone and creating many different textures to contrast with the polished surfaces. Her recent major works include; The Birth, Dancing Woman, Growing Well and My Wedding Day. Some of these works, especially The Birth have been considered to be amongst thefinestfbmZimbabwe inrecentyears. Togetherwith Agnes Nyanhongo, Colleen Madamombe's work is now on a world tour which includes Germany, Holland, England and the U.S.A. The first two of these events in Germany have met with much critical acclaim.
Mawdsley, Joceline. Chapungu: The Stone Sculptures of Zimbabwe. Harare: Chapungu, 1997.