A sombre atmosphere engulfed Tengenenge Arts Community on Monday afternoon as artists and the community members were paying their last respects to one of the oldest sculptors in the country. Amali Malola died three days after the community had buried another talented artist, Paulo Meza, who died after a short illness. Malola, who died at the age of 102, was one of the artists who led a young crop of sculptors in that community.
Meza was 83 and was also instrumental in the growth of the community.
Until his death last Saturday, Malola was still active in sculpting and was a pillar of strength for the artists in the community.
Despite his advanced years, he would regularly visit his gallery and continued teaching the young crop of artists that are emerging in the village.
Principal Director of Sport, Arts and Culture Rev Paul Damasane, renowned sculptor and director of Tengenenge Arts Community Dominic Benhura, National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe deputy director Raphael Chikukwa and head of exhibition at the gallery Walter Ndundu were among the mourners.
Malola's daughter, Angas, said her father was a pillar of strength in the community and will forever be remembered because of his works.
"He taught us to carve stones into special artifacts and today I am an artist because of him. He was a pillar of strength to the community and Zimbabwe at large," she said.
Benhura said Malola's death was a sad loss to the arts fraternity.
"We leant a lot from him and he is one of the artists that inspired me to take over the ownership of this place after Tom Blomefield. He was a inspiration in to us as artiste," he said.
Chikukwa said there was need to celebrate Malola's life as he had championed the survival of the arts centre.
"It is a loss to Zimbabwe and its arts community at large. All I can say is, as National Gallery of Zimbabwe we feel Zimbabwe has been robbed of one of its great artists and a family man who will be remembered by many through his work.
"Some might not have known the man but through his work that raised the Zimbabwean flag high in many countries. We will always remember him as he has left us work and his children who will carry on making more sculptures," said Chikukwa.
Rev Damasane said Malola's death was a great loss to the arts industry.
"While we are mourning his death artists should know that they are important and they should be proud of their works. I am from Matabeleland but I am here because of the arts.
"This shows that it brings interaction and unity in the nation," he said.
He said there was need for artists to be proud of their work so that they can get recognition.
"Arts is a form of employment and if we take it seriously then we can make a breakthrough," he said.
Josiah Manzi, who has been tasked to lead the young generation of sculptors at Tengenenge, said Malola always told artistes to be determined.
"He always told artistes here that they have to be focused and that they should not be carried away by unnecessary issues," said Manzi.
He, however, vowed to continue from where Malola has left making sure that artists continue to shine.
"As long as we are getting the support from the director Benhura and the ministry we will continue to have a breed of artists who produce quality artifacts," said Manzi.
Malola started sculpting in 1969.His sculptures often represent figures based on funny but mostly true stories.
In 2003 he won in a competition in Harare and twice in exhibitions that were held by the Korean Embassy at Tengenenge in 2005 and 2006. Malola was born in Mulembe, Malawi. He belonged to the Ayao clan and his totem was Mbeve.
Meza was born in Mpindi, Mozambique, in 1932.
In 1949 he emigrated to Zimbabwe in search of employment. In 1969 he started sculpting at Tengenenge, but returned after some time to cattle herding. In 1988 he began to sculpt again, this time with more success. He remained at the centre until his death.