Thursday, 30 April 2015

Father of Zimbabwean Abstraction | Post Modernism

Brighton Sango

Portrait of Brighton Sango

Brighton Sango was born in 1958 in Guruve, Northern Zimbabwe. He remained here, in the beautiful rural surroundings of his home. Considered to be an important member of the Second Generation because he was the first to break from traditional sculpting within the Shona Community. Thus, his sculpture was a source of interesting debate as to the future of Zimbabwean sculpture.

Brighton’s career as a sculptor began at the art village of Tengenenge. An introspective individual, Brighton felt overwhelmed by the distraction created by the multitude of sculptors in the village. Therefore, his length of stay was cut short as he decided leaving would help him create his own style. His sojourn at Tengenenge was less than a year.

Once Brighton left the village his individual style began to emerge. While at Tengenenge he was learning under great sculptors like Bernard Matamera. Like the dawning of many great artists, Brighton was heavily influenced by his teacher and echoed his mentor’s approach to sculpting. The earliest of Brighton’s sculptures are proof and this solidifies his wise choice in branching out to further establish himself as an individual.

Brighton is quoted saying that "After my experience at Tengenenge 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."

Brighton Sango broke from the tradition through abstracting the subject in a way that is quite similar to Picasso’s cubism. Although, Brighton was in no way introduced to or influenced by anything in the Western World. The art critic Lionel Philips is quoted saying "... 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".

Yet, the Western World is encroaching on the values and mindset of the traditional Shona Beliefs. This influence has caused a break from the traditional themes to a more ordinary theme of everyday life. The sense of humanity of which they speak through their sculpture is as valuable as those of the traditional Shona sculptor.

Many sculptors have broken from the traditional Shona Sculpture standards set by first generation sculptors such as Sylvester Mubayi, John Takawira, Nicholas Mukomberanwa and Bernard Matemera. These progressive artists have done so through various means. One of which is simply studying materials other than the stone to express their ideas. Artists doing this, other than Brighton, are Tapfuma Gutsa, Dominic Benhura and Arthur Fata. Another approach the artist’s have taken is by presenting portraits of life that are removed from traditional the Shona guide lines. Artists breaking from tradition through this approach are Agnes Nyanhongo, Norbert Shamuyarira and Eddie Masaya. Brighton was a leader in both approaches.

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.

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