Answer by Rory Young:
I once asked this question of the most creative person I had ever met.
He wore a ragged old pair of overalls, a battered old floppy hat with the faded logo of some random fertilizer company displayed on it, and "manyatellas", which are basically flip-flops made from old car tyres and sat on an upside down old crate whilst he banged away on a lump of rock with a hammer. This was, I knew, all very deceptive.
Just as misleading was the fact that he was practically illiterate. Most of his childhood had been spent herding cattle in the African bush and he had only done four years of schooling. His only formal employment, many years before this, had been driving tractors on tobacco farms.
Despite all of this, he was successful, wealthy and very famous. His name wasand he was a world renowned sculptor. He was amongst the most famous proponents of a type of sculpture known as .
Historically art in Africa always had a purpose. It had been decorative or religious. Art was not usually created for its own sake. In the late 1950s that changed dramatically. There was an explosion of creativity in the out in the bush in Zimbabwe that literally that continues to this day.
In 1966 a failed tobacco farmer called Tom Bloemfield decided to give up farming and turn his land into a giant art workshop, utilizing the soapstone that was found there. The place was called Tengenenge and Tom invited artists to form a community on his property. He was laughed off by everybody as a crackpot and his artists as nobodies.
Bernard Matemera was one of these nobodies. Before his death in 2006 he hadall over the world and become the most famous of a group of incredibly talented and unbelievably talented artists.
Yet he stayed a humble and simple man. Although he looked like he had just crawled out of the bush and his workshop was just another patch of ground near other equally ambiguous pieces of ground in the bush at Tengenenge, I knew he had earned the respect of some of the most famous art critics in the world.
He was happy for me to sit with him and chat while he worked and every time I visited Tengenenge I would stop by for a few hours and "chew the cud" with him while he worked.
One day I asked him where he believed creativity came from. Although usually light-hearted and casual in his conversation, he took this question very seriously and stopped what he was doing to sit down before answering me very carefully.
"What I see in my head is what is from deep inside me and from the spirits". He continued, "if it doesn't come to me I must wait or go and look for it. We are all different and we should not try to be the same but we must be Mhunu". Mhunu is the Shona equivalent of the philosphy of Ubuntu implies "oneness".