Brighton Sango (1958-1995)

Joceline Mawdsley, Former Exhibitions Curator, Chapungu Sculpture Park, Harare

[ 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.]

Brighton SangoBrighton Sango was born in 1958 in Guruve, Northern Zimbabwe and remained in the beautiful rural surroundings of his home. He was considered to be an important member of the Second Generation, and his work was a source of interesting debate as to the future of Zimbabwean sculpture. Many of these sculptors appear to have broken away from the quickly established, but nevertheless influential, 'tradition' set by sculptors such as Sylvester Mubayi, John Takawira, Nicholas Mukomberanwa and Bernard Matemera. They have done this in several ways: by looking to materials other than stone to express their ideas ( Tapfuma Gutsa, Dominic Benhura and Arthur Fata); or by presenting portraits of life now removed from traditional Shona guide linesf Agnes Nyanhongo, Norbert Shamuyarira and Eddie Masaya). Although these artists represent a wide range of personal beliefs there is no doubt that the urgency with which they speak of or document such ideals is lessening. Western values and concepts are fast becoming a source of artistic inspiration, but more often the subject matter explored in today's work is based on simple themes - pictures of daily life. The poignancy and sense of humanity with which these subjects are portrayed are as valuable an insight as those of traditional Shona society provided by the first generation sculptors. Brighton Sango represented a further direction: that of abstraction. He was described in 1987, by F. Mor in his book Shona Sculpture, as follows: "Brighton Sango has set out on his own path and is today the most interesting and promising of the new group." Sango's sculptural career began at Tengenenge. He stayed only a few months before removing himself from the distraction and possible confusion created by other sculptors. His work, in the beginning was heavily influenced by the 'figurehead' of the cornmunity, Bernard Matamera. To see early figurative pieces by Sango, with their Matamera - like enlarged features and sometimes grotesque faces, makes his later sculpture all the more remarkable. "After my experience at Tengenege I felt I had to change. My work was being too influenced by others. I now work with the idea that every day is new and that your work must reflect this." The only sculptor to work with purely abstract imagery, Sango set an important example for young Zimbabwean sculptors. With no artistic education, he made the decision to prevent outside influence on his work and began, privately, to give voice to his very different ideas - with conviction and pride. Working with often difficult relationships of pure form and powerful sculptural mass, he portrayed a wide range of ideas - sometimes of figurative origin, as in Woman Kneeling and Lion Spirit, but often exploring human emotion and thought in pieces such as A Prayer For Us All. While he was aware of the often unyielding properties of stone, Sango was capable of presenting imagery (flat plans and changes of direction) with an ease usually associated with contemporary steel sculpture. In a review of the exhibition Zimbabwe Stone Sculpture: The Second Generation, held in England in 1994, Sango's work was highlighted by the art critic Lionel Philips. " Sango, who is the only Zimbabwean whose work is mainly abstract, appears as a follower of 1930's cubism but he has had, in fact, no exposure to Western art". Tragically, in August 1995 Brighton Sango took his own life. His work will continue to speak with great eloquence to local and international audiences through group and specific exhibitions, as well as to herald possible new directions for the future of Zimbabwean stone sculpture.


Mawdsley, Joceline. Chapungu: The Stone Sculptures of Zimbabwe. Harare: Chapungu, 1997.

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