Lawyer with a heart for stone

Kundai Marunya Lifestyle Reporter
His head weighs heavily on his shoulders from the many hats he wears and the knowledge acquired in different fields.
He speaks passionately, but his words are full of humility. He is a dreamer, a creative, and although he may refuse to admit it; a philosopher. This bests describes David Ngwerume, a lawyer, visual artist, sculptor, chef and boiler maker.

Early life
Born on December 22, 1980 in Seke, Ngwerume spent most of his childhood rooted in Musana Village, Bindura, where he did his primary education before going to Chindunduma High School.

Creative at heart, Ngwerume is not sure when he really fell in love with art, having grown up creating different crafts from anything he could lay his hands on.
He however, vividly remembers his first encounter with stone sculpture.

“I was 16, during school holidays when a renowned sculptor, Cosmas Muchenje, who hails from our village set up a sculpture garden in our area. Then, he was based in Harare but used to come over to Musana on weekends.
“I approached him and expressed my passion and he invited me to come and assist him as a way of learning tools handling,” said Ngwerume.

In just over a month, Ngwerume had mastered the art, began working on his own pieces starting with smaller and simpler works.
He continued to work with stone sculpture until he finished his high school.

Creative career
In 2002, after completing Advanced Level, Ngwerume moved to Harare where he enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) to study a Bachelor of Law Honours degree.

He did not let his studies divert him from his passion for art. Instead, Ngwerume took the move to Harare as an opportunity to spread his wings.

Thus, a year later, he had made enough connections to hold a solo exhibition titled “Women; Unabated Struggle from the Cradle” at the Zimbabwe Germany Society.

The success of the showcase saw him earning another exhibition, this time at the United Nations Information Centre.
The exhibition was titled “Global Tourism; Threat to New World Order”.

His university also noticed his talent and in the same year, he showcased at the Women’s Law Centre at UZ.
From then on he held annual exhibitions at the university’s Hebert Chitepo Memorial Lecture held by the Faculty of Law.
International recognition

A year later, Ngwerume exhibited at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) as a guest artiste along with renowned sculptor Dominic Benhura.

The exhibition featured sculptors drawn from Tengenenge and Chapungu galleries. This was a big break that saw his works being collected by a number of international galleries.

Cashing in on the exposure, after graduating law in 2004, Ngwerume went on to saturate his passion with knowledge, studying Art History at Oslo University in Norway.

As he grew older, so did his creative career, and profile. In 2007, he was selected as the sole representative of Africa in a touring exhibition that showcased in all continents starting off in Netherlands along with 64 other artists from different countries.
Balancing careers

Hard as it is to balance his creative career and practicing law, Ngwerume, a senior partner at Messrs Ngwerume Attorneys at Law, has always sought to find middle ground.

“Passion of pursuit makes me standout from being ordinary to being driven by rewards of extraordinary determination in any field,” said Ngwerume.

In 2010 he began “Principles of Justice”, a concept that bridged his irk of being a lawyer and artiste.
The concept saw him carving ‘scales of justice’ which were erected in front of the Harare and Bulawayo High Courts that year, and in front of Harare Labour Court earlier this month.

“I intended to continue setting up landmark sculptures in front of all our courts, locally, regionally and internationally.
“These works are a series and I still intend to continue depicting an everlasting sensation of how humanity forms a popular consensus towards justice unequivocally.”

Ngwerume also takes pride in being one of the very few artistes whose works are collected at State House in Harare.
“I was commissioned by NetOne to carve a piece ‘Connecting the World’ when they set up a base station at the State House in 2016. The piece still stands there, beautifying the base station,” he said.

The late music legend Dr Oliver Mtukudzi was also a fan of Ngwerume’s work. He collected one of his pieces, “Recreation” which stands at Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton.

Although he continues to sculpt, selling to several foreign markets, earning the country the much needed foreign currency, Ngwerume thinks Government is not doing enough to support art.

“In line with current global trends, artistes need structural support within the country to enable them to market their works.
“Our embassies abroad should enhance the concept of cultural attachés with special tasks to promote, diversify and intensify the markets for our art industry,” he said.

He urged Government to also collect art and set up exhibition spaces and cultural parks synonymous with first world countries.
“In some countries, for example Norway, the state is one of the biggest collectors of art. State collections have been turned into sculpture parks like Gustavigilan in Oslo and millions get to visit for a small fee earning them millions in return,” said Ngwerume.

Dreams
His creativity has taken his mind far ahead in time where artistes create solutions for various socio-economic problems of the day.
Ngwerume has time and again said art trumps philosophy. In line with this, he plans to build an art, culture and heritage city, which plans and creates solutions for future generations.
“This will be the first city built from scratch for us by us since Great Zimbabwe. The reason why we have accommodation, sewer, congestion and many other problems in our present cities is because they were designed for us to be mere guests in them, but it’s time we change that,” he said.
“If I happen to be offered land between 200 and 500 hectares to start, with I can demonstrate how this creative idea can transform Zimbabwe.”
Besides wearing many hats, Ngwerume’s heart remains rooted in art. He says it’s because Zimbabwe is a house of stones and his heart belongs to his country — he has a heart for stone.