Dominic Benhura passed his Ordinary Level with flying colours and enrolled for Advanced Advanced Level to study mathematics, chemistry and biology. At the end of his first term in Lower Six, the Dominic announced that he was dropping out of school to pursue sculpture as a fulltime stone carver.
He was staying with his uncle in Tafara and everyone at home was disappointed. Even his mother, who was running a vegetable stall in Chitungwiza, was pained by his decision.
Benhura said that he was literally hated in the family, the artist had well educated relatives and the society believed that academic pursuit was the only way to success in life. He had a passion for art and he could not suppress it. Even his teachers were surprised to hear that he was quitting school. Everyone close to him tried to advise him against my consideration, but he had made a final decision. He wanted to be a sculptor for the rest of his life.
Dominic had confidence because his part time sculpting adventures since he was in Form One had been successful. After relocating from his rural home in Murewa to stay with his uncle in Tafara, Benhura had learnt the basics of sculpture from his cousin Tapfuma Gutsa who was a popular visual artist. He started earning good income from selling his pieces to the extent of paying school fees on his own since he was in Form Two.
Benhura reportedly paid the fees out of choice, not lack, since his uncle could afford the obligation. By the time he quit school, he had made contacts in the industry and approached then director of Chapungu Sculpture Park, Roy Gathrie, for working space at the establishment. Gathrie was also surprised by his decision to quit school and advised him to reconsider his options.
”After numerous visits to Chapungu, I managed to convince Guthrie to take me aboard. I had to move out of my uncle’s house in Tafara because there was serious tension over my decision. I relocated to Kuwadzana,but I was still to convince my mother that I had made the right choice” he said.
Benhura then approached his mother with his brothers and showed her savings he had made before quitting school. He wanted her to quit her market work and live on the savings.
”At first it was not easy to convince her. We took time and did so much explaining. When she finally agreed, she said she wanted relocate to our rural home. I was against the idea. I wanted to find decent accommodation for her in Harare and I had a vision to buy her a house” he added.
However, his mother insisted and he built a hut for her in the rural area. They agreed that she would only go there periodically and they assigned someone to look after the hut. That year she decided to plant some crops in their rural field and he insisted that she did not have to stay there for good. He had bigger plans for her.
The artist established the gallery after buying a house in Greendale and he has since acquired many properties from the proceeds of sculpture. He has assisted sculptors at Tengenenge Arts Centre that he has worked with since the departure of former director Tom Blomefield. Benhura still tours extensively and has colourful memories about his international visits and exhibition.