The National Gallery of Zimbabwe’s Visual Art Studios, which have trained scores of artists over the years have been formally registered with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education and will now offer two certificate courses in collaboration with the Harare Polytechnic.
The approval for registration of the school was issued in July this year (2012) by the Ministry. The school, formally known as BAT and Visual Art Studios shall be referred to as the National Gallery School of Visual Arts and Design (NGSVAD). Its first campus, which is located in Mbare will still be known as the Visual Art Studios so as to maintain part of the history of the school.
The school offers two short course certificates in visual arts and design, awarded by the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in association with the Harare Polytechnic College.
Students who complete Level One receive a Short Course Certificate of Achievement and those who complete Level Two, are awarded a Short Course Certificate of Competence, both for a duration of one year. On completion of the course students should be able to draw, paint, printmake, sculpt, design, photograph and independently create artworks in their chosen major and minor.
The students are also exposed to theoretical material related to the visual arts. Applying students are required to have the ability to read and write English, show an interest in art as a subject, have a portfolio of at least ten works of art as well as have a 50 percent pass for practical and theory subjects for Level 1 and be a minimum of 16 years of age.
The school says it is still in need of more partners, especially with regards to art materials and equipment. The Gallery plans to continue with renovations of the school to cater for more studio space.
An open day will take place on Friday October 19, 2012 at its campus in Mbare (61 Maruta Crescent, Mbare), from 11h00-15h30. Educators, scholars, artists and art lovers are invited.
On display will be artworks by Level One and Level Two students, including paintings produced under the mentorship of renowned painter John Kotze, a project sponsored by British Council Zimbabwe.
The history of the National Gallery School of Visual Arts and Design goes back to 1962 when the then director of the National Gallery of Rhodesia, Frank McEwen, opened a Workshop School.
The objective of the school was to provide material for exhibitions and help the Gallery stage shows overseas. It was also intended for the staff to produce artworks which would be sold in the gallery shop. The birth and growth of the Workshop School nurtured the talent of notable artists such as Thomas Mukarobgwa, Kingsley Sambo, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, as well as people from different ethnic groups who came to the school to earn a livelihood and enhance their artistic skills.
These men and women made use of indigenous materials such as spring stone, soap stone and wood which encouraged originality in their art pieces. However, wood became the medium of mass produced, trash-trade carvings for tourists and was quickly abandoned by the school.
McEwen’s Workshop School was then disbanded in 1975.
After independence (1980) another Workshop School was opened in 1981, with the support of the British America Tobacco. The BAT Visual Arts Studios was thus established. The aim was to provide instructions, materials, career development, studio facilities and encouragement for young, upcoming artists at no expense to them.
In the 1980s and 90s the school was instrumental in fostering the emergence of a new generation and movement of artists, including the likes of Chiko Chazunguza, Fasoni Sibanda, Richard Witikani, Semina Mpofu, Doris Kamupira, Charles Kamangwana and Ishmael Wilfred.
One artist of note is Chiko Chazunguza, a multi-media artist and art lecturer at Harare Polytechnic, who is currently in Canada studying for a PhD. He qualified with a first degree and masters after winning a scholarship to study art in Bulgaria. Chiko is the founder of Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions, an artists’ resource centre and a meeting place situated between Snake World and Lion and Cheetah Park along Bulawayo Road, just outside Harare.
The school has been a major hub through which most of today’s practicing artists of significance have emerged. BAT sponsored the school until the year 2000. Today the school is under the sponsorship of the Royal Norwegian Embassy (NORAD) and HIVOS Foundation.
The school with its campus site at Beatrice Cottages in Mbare offers art education to many young and upcoming artists. With the appointment of Curator for Education, Mrs.Tashinga Matindike-Gondo last year, the registration process commenced mid-2011 under the guidance of the Executive Director Mrs. Doreen Sibanda and the Deputy Director Mr. Raphael Chikukwa.
The initial process included visiting various academies and tertiary institutions that offer tertiary courses and degrees in the field of Art and Design. Visits to various business people in the creative industries were also carried out.
The process also involved various inspections by Harare City Council for health, as well as inspections by Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education.
The Royal Norwegian Embassy and HIVOS Foundation were key partners in the renovations which took place to the school building.
“It is my hope that the school will be able to sustain itself now that it’s registered. Many artists have come out of this school and it is my hope that it will continue to attract artists. I also appeal for the corporate sector’s support, government support and thank our current partners for their generous support,” said the Gallery Curator, Mr Raphael Chikukwa.
Applications for 2013 entry will be accepted from Monday October 15 to December 3, 2012.