In 2011, Tracy Chatsama took her stone-carving tools on a mission to turn hard granite into a replica of the monumental “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”. She had hopes her six months of hard work would, apart from earning her recognition, fatten her pockets.
By Kennedy Nyavaya
However, both dreams are still yet to come true, six years later.
The smaller version of the humongous bronze statue, erected at the National Heroes Acre, which was crafted by the North Koreans, exudes pure artistry because unlike Chatsama’s, it was not moulded but surfaced from an artistic process, intolerant of mistakes.
But over half a decade later, Chatsama is still stuck with the sculpture at Chitungwiza Arts Centre and there seems to be no takers in sight to buy it.
“If no one buys there is no problem, children who come to this place will come and see it because this is now a place of tourism,” Chatsama said.
Ironically, domestic tourists are smitten with the piece of art as they jostle to take pictures of it everytime they visit the location in the dormitory town. That, however, has not proved beneficial moneywise.
“I went to several high offices, even went to the Zanu PF headquarters thinking that maybe such things would attract war veterans, but I have not been lucky,” she told The Standard Style.
“I do not want them to just come and take it because there is a thing where they say rack it and take it to the monuments. For me, that won’t do because I am an artist and this is where the livelihood of my family comes from.”
Chatsama’s initial dream was to furnish Heroes Acres in the country with her artwork, but judging from the look of things, that could remain a pipe dream.
If the sculpture is not bought, the mother of three is planning to extract little value off it by charging those itching for a Kodak moment with it a small price.
“I once thought of covering it and those who want to take pictures can pay a small fee, but I have not devised a plan of how to execute it,” she said.
With only a handful of women famed for being sculptors, Chatsama stands as a symbol of endless possibilities for women in the arts sector.
She believes that: “Women can do more if only they can be given a chance to do so.”
In an industry dominated by men, failure to buy the artist’s work could trigger fears of female sculptors being side-lined, especially considering that not so long ago some male artistes like Dominic Benhura hogged the limelight for the president’s statue.
Meanwhile, fending for her second year university student child is becoming harder with each passing day owing to the economic climate and shrinking market.
“It is now becoming hard because the market is shrinking and we look at the foreigners, those are the ones we expect to buy mostly but even when they come nowadays, they no longer buy with good prices, they are now taking advantage of our unstable economic situation.”
Middlemen are also preying on artistes as they buy the pieces at cheap prices and go on to inflate the prices in foreign markets.
“Locally the business is not as lucrative, I sometimes wish we could try to introduce it but most people say they do not have money,” she said.
The lack of economic benefit will, however, not stop Chatsama from pursuing her childhood profession, which she has been practising for almost three decades now.
She started sculpting in 1990 as a hobby, learning from her father who was a professional sculptor then.
When she bought buns and a drink off the selling of her first work, she was motivated to drop all her other ambitions.
“I just felt encouraged that I am eating something I have bought on my own; from there I just started pushing.”