The non-profit association "Meister für Afrika" ('Masters for Africa') has initiated the "Support the talents" project, a pilot project for supporting and promoting vocational training for stone sculptors in Zimbabwe, in cooperation with the West German Chambers of Crafts and Skilled Trades’ Council from the German city of Düsseldorf, the umbrella organisation for chambers of crafts and skilled trades from the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Five Basic Points
- The young stone sculptors of the future are creative, talented and motivated. They are, however, lacking in sufficient tools and money for funding education and training.
- There is no structure to ensure the existence of and review certain minimum standards and safety in vocational training. The project recently helped to develop an initial framework determining the content, methods and techniques that need to be taught in the form of a curriculum.
- The basic principles of occupational health and safety are mostly unknown.
- Young women are additionally disadvantaged if they want to learn the art of stone working.
- The marketing of the artistic pieces produced tends to be a rather random activity.
About the Project Idea
- Transferring suitable elements from German vocational training for stonemasons with the aim of improving quality, promoting occupational health and safety, creating jobs and training positions, establishing partnerships with German stonemasonry companies and galleries and developing the marketability of the works
- Preventing growing child labour
- The project aims to particularly factor in the wishes of young women who want to learn the skilled trade.
- These women are mostly additionally disadvantaged and have no opportunities whatsoever when it comes to completing vocational training and achieving independence.
- Support and advice structures for the establishment of a self-governing organisation for stonemasons and stone sculptors that is on the one hand responsible for the education and examination system and on the other hand able to strengthen the field of sculpting at its roots on a long-term basis.
The Services Provided by the "Support the talents" Project
- Development of a curriculum that ensures the quality of vocational training and enables skills and knowledge to be transparent and comparable
- Establishment of an initial examination system on location
- Attracting female artists to act as key communicators in order to appeal to young women in a targeted manner
- Discussions and workshops for the training of trainers on location and for the further education of examiners by an instructor from Germany.
For Sustainability and Transfer
- The project also aims to continue to support the acquisition of donations. The direct use of donations for the respective training position on location in Zimbabwe is organised by the non-profit association "Meister für Africa".
- At the end of the project, the results of the project and the works produced are handed over to the association and continued and/or consolidated in cooperation with the stakeholders in Zimbabwe.
- The establishment of a network between stonemasons, galleries, donations and friends of the association also aims to develop the exchange with stonemasons in Zimbabwe and to raise awareness of the stone sculptures in order to promote sales.
The skilled trade of stone working and the art of producing stone sculptures is an integral aspect of Zimbabwean culture. It is a tradition that goes back a long way and has outlived all of the nation's crises and repression. Zimbabwean stone sculptors have been passing on the necessary skills and tools to the next generation of their family right up to the present day.
In the mid-20th century, a new and young stone sculpting scene emerged and a combination of contemporary forms and abstract depictions together with African elements developed into a modern style that is highly regarded in locations as far away as Europe and America.
Serpentinite, a shimmering stone of volcanic origin in colours ranging from grey-green right through to jet black, is the preferred material of the artistic community of Zimbabwe. Its surface is polished with finest sandpaper and wax to provide a high-gloss finish and left in its original matt grey-white form in some areas in order to create a natural contrast.
Another favoured type of stone is soapstone, which is composed of 100% talc, is extremely soft and occurs in the colours of white, pink, blue, green or even grey and black. The artists have easy access to both types of rock, a large amount of which was brought to the surface by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.
The size of the stone sculptures from Zimbabwe is extremely varied, stretching from smaller works measuring approximately 15-20cm right up to heights of two to three metres. The forms created range from long, more abstract pillars through to depictions of slim human silhouettes.
These diverse objects can not only be found in small private galleries in the USA, Canada, Italy, Scandinavia and Germany, but also in well-known exhibition venues such as MoMA in New York. They have a correspondingly broad price range, with prices for more simple sculptures starting at approximately 200 euros and larger works by established artists fetching totals of up to several tens of thousands of euros.
Nevertheless, a large amount of the potential for the country and above all for the educational opportunities of its next generation as a result of international sales still remains undiscovered. There is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to the global demand for modern and traditional stonemasonry works from Zimbabwe.
Up to now, the combination of these prospects and the skills and potential available in the nation has barely helped to improve the initial situation for young people on a sustained basis. The difficult general economic conditions in Zimbabwe mean that even more well-known stone sculpting masters are rarely able to pass on their skills and knowledge to the next generation and educate their successors in such a manner that they create a stable system of vocational training in the art of stonemasonry. The "Support the talents" project uses its network of project partners to counter this situation.
The project aims to offer young people an opportunity to develop their talents and to provide them with skills that enable them and their families to achieve security and a future by teaching them the art of sculpture production. The requirements involved in achieving these objectives are low:
- Supporting an apprentice for one year and reimbursing the master sculptor's expenses for material and any damaged tools costs a one-off total of 750 euros.
- Financial support for selected master sculptors who agree to also pass on their skills and knowledge to other families and teach a young person their art for one year is guaranteed by donors to the "Meister für Afrika" association.
- The establishment of a stable vocational training structure helps to support and promote the general conditions. This requires both a number of certain training standards and a system that offers young people attractive opportunities and access.
The "Meister für Afrika" association has played an important role in taking the first steps in this direction together with the West German Chambers of Crafts and Skilled Trades’ Council and the project outlined above.