Zimbabwe – A World of Wonders


(Posted 31st August 2016)


August 2016

Story by Nellia Nhauranwa in Atlanta Ga, USA

ZTA’s Marketing Manager Americas Nellia Nhauranwa (right) with David Vogt, Art Program Manager Engineering of Jackson Hartsfield Atlanta Airport (left)

Walking through the pedestrian corridor of the Transportation Mall between the T Gates and Concourse A, one cannot help but be awestruck by the extraordinary pieces of stone sculpture towering this walkway of Jackson Hartsfield Atlanta Airport in the US. Gigantic pieces of stone have been transfigured to tell the Zimbabwean story through ingenious hands of artists as a form of expression by the sculptors. This marvelous showcase is the Zimbabwe Art Programme entitled Zimbabwe, A Tradition in Stone which is a permanent collection of contemporary stone sculptures and is one of the largest publicly owned and exhibited collections of its kind. According to David Vogt, Art Program Manager Engineering of Jackson Hartsfield Atlanta Airport, the Zimbabwean contemporary art movement is very significant in Africa and Atlanta Airport being the busiest airport in the world is a great place to showcase it.

Zimbabwe Art Pieces along the walkway

To create each piece, the talented Zimbabwean artists skillfully hand-carved the stone to rough out the initial form without the use of power tools. Next the artists smoothed out select surfaces with sandpaper. Wax was applied to some of the surfaces to create contrasting textures that enhance the work’s beauty and emotive qualities. This is the work of twelve of Zimbabwe’s top artists such as Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Dominic Benhura, Tapfumanei Gutsa to mention but a few. To augment the Zimbabwean story is an amazing array of LED lit images of Zimbabwe’s wonders. These include the Majestic Victoria Falls, Wonderful people and Culture, The Grand Medieval Palace, Great Zimbabwe, Rich History and Heritage, Pristine Wildlife and others and are mounted on the walls of the entire walkway. Passengers are engaged as they travel through the airport and cannot escape the marvel of the stories of the Zimbabwean discourse projected by these pieces. Themes of the pieces and pictures range from the importance of family, humanity’s relationship with nature and the day to day Zimbabwean lifestyle.

“Jackson Hartsfield Airport is the busiest airport in the world with 101,491,106 passengers travelling through it from all over the world per year. We serve 2500 flights per day and we are also rated the most efficient airport in the world. We have millions passing through this airport every year and it is our hope that the themes explored by this Zimbabwean art resonate with passengers of all backgrounds.” highlighted Vogt. Rich mbira music gently strums in the background along the walkway to give a harmonizing effect and enhance the traveler’s experience. This does not only appeal to the foreign passenger but even the Zimbabwean diaspora as well who will immediately connect to their roots and want to visit the destination.

The feedback pertaining to the exhibition is overwhelming with some passengers wanting to connect with the origin country of the sculptures to have a personal experience with the destination. “I had one passenger come to me who was travelling for a funeral but she confessed emotionally that the gallery’s pieces helped her to calm down and she became more confident of whatever she was currently going through.” mused Vogt. Such memories have a pull factor to Zimbabwe hence the gallery adds spur to the ZTA’s marketing efforts in the US and beyond. The Zimbabwe Art program also attracts school and Universities tours, senior citizens, the visually impaired tours, who experience the stonework through touch and other specialized tours. “While this is a permanent collection, the airport is open for further collaboration with Zimbabwe to enhance the exhibition and other programs within our rotating exhibitions.” he added. The US is a market of immense potential that needs to be tapped into. The 2016 First Half Statistics Report states that Zimbabwe received 31 679 arrivals from 22 774 arrivals in 2015. The exponential growth of the US market is something to leverage on and invest resources in to fully capture this market to Zimbabwe A World of Wonders.