By Novell Zwange – HARARE – A scanography exhibition of Shona sculpture by Mac McArthur, a Canadian artist, opened this week at the Book Cafe, Harare.
McArthur, a Toronto-based chartered accountant uses three scanners with varying optical density and depth of field to photograph sculptures he collects in his travels. The multi-dimensional work is produced along with flowers, bark and stone.
He arranges various materials simultaneously on scanner glass, adding, moving and removing items to the artistically desired composition. The prints are made using archival ink on rag paper, and besides Photoshop which the artist uses to remove dust and scratches, no other digital manipulation or collage techniques are used.
His exhibition of print images depicts mostly diverse sets of some deeply spiritual shona stone carvings by notable Zimbabwean sculptors. Among them are the late artists Queen Sango and Peter Mandala whose works McArthur said he could spiritually relate to.
“I believe that through some spirituality and the culture of this country, I got in touch with this work,” he remarked.
Paul Brickhill of African Synergy agreed, “The thing that impressed me is that he knows the selection of his shona sculptures. It’s not purely aesthetic quality it’s spiritual quality.”
In a gesture of goodwill McArthur said despite having bought and paid full amounts for the shona sculptures he will remit an additional 20% directly to the surviving artist’s family from the sale each and every image that uses the sculptures.
“We are working with the Pamberi Trust here to promote Zimbabwean art through Ethical Auction, a Canadian fair trade organisation,” said McArthur.
“I am not just here because of what you are seeing on the walls but also to build synergies with African artists.”
During his brief visit to Harare, McArthur has held a series of workshops and live demonstrations for the local visual artists. He also donated a brand new industrial scanner for use by the local artists.
Tafadzwa Mandala the son to the late Peter Mandala whose works are in many of McArthur’s images said he felt elevated.
“I would like to thank Mac for promoting Zimbabwean sculptors. I have never met him before but when I saw him he is a proper and honest gentleman.”
“We can not promote our sculptures on our own, we dont have enough promoters from other cultures, and I would like to thank Mac for what he is doing,” said Tafadzwa.
McArthur’s scan photography is the first of its kind to be held in the country.
Denis Langlois, of the Canadian Embassy in Zimbabwe hailed the initiative by his country’s citizen.
“He really made a commitment to make this exhibition. This is also a way to promote this kind of Zimbabwean artwork to the Canadian people.”
“People in Canada naturally have a very soft spot for African art. I assure you at Mac’s forthcoming exhibition in Toronto, people are going to be very touched and emotional about these pictures,” Langlois added.
The Harare launch forms part of another collection of McArthur’s images to be soon exhibited in Toronto, Canada.
“I am developing a marketing arrangement for the Zimbabwean sculptures and I have a feeling that this is not my last trip to Harare,” McArthur said.
McArthur’s exciting new art has drawn the attention of several local artists, collectors and gallery owners. Marcus Gora of the First Floor Gallery said it made him rethink what is defined as photography, both in its spiritual and cultural breadth.