Life begins at 40 for Gallery Delta

The following article was originally published in The Herald

Written by Stephen Garan’anga

20 April 2015

The saying is ‘life begins at 40’ and this is the age when people do their various checks and balances to establish how much groundwork they would have covered in terms of achieving their preparation for a distinguishable way of living by that period. But conquering the same period in business revolving around cultural practitioners in visual art is no easy feat as faith and endurance is strenuously tested.

In Zimbabwe it means one would have experienced various life changing phases which include the unforgiving cruelty of the colonial era in which many had to dodge bullets to continue existing, being grilled by the economic sanctions of time and witnessing the untold suffering of the masses in the liberation struggle amongst infinite horrific acts to the attainment of the country’s independence and the new challenges thereafter, the economic boom, new political turmoil and sanctions to the current economic hardships.

This is some of what the art business of the couple of Derek Huggins and Helen Lieros who co-founded Gallery Delta at Strachan’s Building in the then Manica Road in 1975can testify.

The couple may be about a hundred and forty years of combined age but they still say the journey is not over and the work continues even with a way over five hundred art exhibitions that senior artist Helen Lieros deliberated on and mounted amongst other artistic events they have conducted which include music, theatre and literature.

During his recent heartfelt speech of their past in the industry, Derek Huggins briefly alluded to the intention which was to encourage and promote painting, graphics and mixed media sculpture as an alternative to the almighty conquering “Shona Stone Sculpture” which took everything under its wings at the time and this became a life time work.

He said theirs has been a long journey being involved with art and artists, a journey encompassing an ideal to provide a venue and to help artists in their struggle to be creative and to find self-expression and survive.

In this Gallery Delta on 110 Livingston Avenue/Ninth Street Greenwood Park in Harare has made a huge contribution along the years in the development of contemporary art in Zimbabwe bringing many artists from obscurity to recognition.

Derek said “Sadly, however, the political stagnation and economic degeneration in the country mitigates severely against the well-being of the arts and the artistic community and renders us increasingly donor and sponsor dependent. Nonetheless, we celebrate and mark Gallery Delta’s 40th Anniversary with ‘Past and Present’, an exhibition with a retrospective insight that acknowledges many artists with whom we have had a long and meaningful associations. We salute them and thank for them for their contribution.”

He thanked all the sponsors whose contributions made the exhibition possible who included the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust with their partnership with Sweden and the European Union who have become the major funders of various arts and cultural activities in the country and whose executive director Farai Mupfunya officially opened the exhibition.

There was also the reading of various messages of appreciation from all over the globe from those who have been acquainted with the Gallery now called Gallery Delta Foundation for Art and the Humanities.

They strategically rebranded to a foundation so that they could access various aid as they had experienced acute viability challenges for a while. At some point they had to call to artists for donations of artworks to sell for their continual existence.

They called for a benefit show on the 19th of June 2009 dubbed ’34 Years Plus: The Gallery Delta Benefit Exhibition’.

With more than 34 years of flourishing existence at the time, promoting artists and leading in sells of artworks, the gallery was now struggling to survive entirely from commissions taken from the sells of artworks. Fortunately artists loyal to the gallery overwhelmingly heeded to the call and saved the day. Afterwards the Gallery relied heavily on diplomatic missions’ sponsored art shows and competitions before others joined in the fray.

The current ‘Gallery Delta at 40 Years’ show of paintings, graphics and sculptures by many prominent artists of past and present truly reflects the exceptional qualities which have moulded both the artists and the Gallery.

The exhibition includes artworks by forty four major achieving practitioners who include Lovemore Kambudzi, Arthur Azevedo, Luis Meque, Hilary Kashiri, George Churu, TapfumaGutsa, Marjorie Wallace, Gillian Resselli, Thakor Patel, Rashid Jogee, Helen Lieros, Berry Bickle, Gerry Dixon, Richard Jack, Albert Wachi, Masimba Hwati, Victor Nyakauru, Robert Paul, Greg Shaw, Virginia Chihota, TafadzwaGwetai, Cosmos Shiridzinomwa, Stephen Williams, Shepherd Mahufe, Daryl Nero, Misheck Masamvu, Kate Raath, Portia Zvavahera, Johnson Zuze to mention but a few.