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Blomefield, Tom

Founder and director of Tengenenge from 1966 to end 2007.
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Born in Johannesburg, S.A., in 1926. Came in 1946 to Zimbabwe to become a tobacco farmer and chrome miner.
Founded Tengenge Art Community in 1966, after the economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, in order to give himself and his farm workers a more meaningful life and a way of earning an income.
There is a place in the North of Zimbabwe where wild animals roam in woodlands with abundant wild fruit and honey. This place is called Tengenenge, a name given by an old chief which means “the beginning of the beginning”. There is a mountain with crystal clear waterfalls and palms and ravines and under the grassy covered slopes there lies a deposit of serpentine, formed two and half thousand million years ago at a depth of three kilometres, when the mountains of the great African dyke were formed. In 1966 the tobacco plantation workers and myself started using this stone to make sculptures to find a creative means of survival and livelihood, because the effect of the United Nations sanctions had crippled the tobacco industry. Tengenenge, rich in people of many different tribes of the Zambesi river basin, and also rich in stone, became a place where people could discover their talent. By sculpting the freely available stone, they found a good life in a harmonious natural environment.During a 15 year period of political and military struggle to oust the white government of Ian Smith, far away in the bush a new art was born and grew in spite of embargoes, few sales of sculptures and a war raging. Tengenenge survived and was not harmed. There are no locks on doors and sculptors only fear the leopard. The art reflects the dance societies with its carved masks and belief in ancestral spirits and magic. It has a rich folklore, yet the sculptures have no ritual function. The stone, which is a sculptor's dream, enables the artists to express their figurative and abstract ideas in any dimension. Well-known artists found their beginning in Tengenenge; most of them are still living there, and their sculptures have been exhibited in many museums and galleries world-wide.”
Tom Blomefield