By Martina Kwenda (Ethelartconnect Creative Writer)
The late Joseph Ndandarika was born in Harare but grew up in Rusape in Zimbabwe, He was both a Painter and a Sculptor and created a signature tool of mixing the paints on the canvas rather than the palette, a technique that created a highly uneven surface.
His most notable work was “Bushmen Running from the Rain” (1962) Magic Bird” (1962). He inherited a love of art from his mother who was artistic and occasionally worked as a model for the sculptor Job Kekana, another Rusape resident.
It was Father John Groeber and Cornelius Manguma that recognized his talent at Serima Mission in the late 1950s. The two took him under their wings to teach him in drawing and woodcarvings until Groeber introduced him to painting paint several murals inside St. Mary’s church.
In 1959, he moved to Salisbury and later joined Frank McEwen’s Workshop School in Harare in 1960. While he was one of McEwen’s leading painters he specialized in landscapes and witchcraft scenes. The height of Ndandarika’s painting career came when the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) acquired his 1962 oil, “Bushmen Running from the Rain.”
After several years of painting, Ndandarika was sent by McEwen to train in stone sculpture with Joram Mariga. During the mid-1960s he gradually shifted more and more towards sculpting and ended up in all of McEwen’s major exhibitions that made Zimbabwean stone sculpture famous.
The hardest challenge for Ndandarika’s was in getting McEwen to acknowledge Shona mythology by telling him that spirits inhabited the rock formations. This formulation had a major impact on McEwen’s marketing of his sculpture, leading him to claim that his sculptors were unleashing the spirit in the stone in the course of their work.
Another rough period came in his life when McEwen’s left Rhodesia in the 1970s so he had to find his own. However, he had a major comeback in the 1980s that he became part of the Zimbabwean arts revival and so he was remembered as one of the country’s most prominent “first generation” sculptors.
One of Ndandarika’s sculptural works, called Telling Secrets, was depicted on a Zimbabwean stamp issued to commemorate Commonwealth Day on 14 March 1983. It formed the 11c value in a set completed with works by Henry Munyaradzi, John Takawira, and Nicholas Mukomberanwa.
Selected solo or group exhibitions (According to Wikipedia)
1963 New Art from Rhodesia, Commonwealth Institute, London
1964 International Art exhibition, Lusaka, Zambia
1968 New African Art; organised by MoMA, New York, USA
1971 Sculpture Contemporaine des Shonas d’Afrique, Musée Rodin, Paris, France
1981 Retrospective Exhibition of Shona Sculpture, Zimbabwe House, London
1985 Contemporary Stone Sculpture from Zimbabwe, Irving Sculpture Gallery, Sydney, Australia
1987 International Contemporary Art fair, Los Angeles, USA
1988 Chicago International Art Exposition, Chicago, USA
1988 Australia Art Expo, Darling Harbour, Sydney
1990 Contemporary Stone Carving from Zimbabwe, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK
1990 Stone Sculpture from Zimbabwe, Millesgården Museum, Stockholm, Sweden
2000 Chapungu: Custom and Legend – A Culture in Stone, Kew Gardens, UK