Farai was born in Nyanga in the eastern highlands of Zimbabawe in 1975. He has been carving stone for over twenty years; taught by Charles Chikazung. Nine children keep him busy when he’s not sculpting. We discovered Farai in 2015 in Chitengweza and were excited with his incredible talent, attention to etail and the exquisite ability to give life to stone.
Butter Jade only comes from Birchenough Bridge in Manicaland on Zimbabawe’s eastern border with Mozambique, is Farai’s favorite stone. Cream colored with dark striations and passages of gray-green, the stone is very hard and challenging to carve, over six on Mohr’s scale of hardness.
Every square inch of the surface is lovingly worked. Every stone that Farai uses to create his sculptutres is investigated early in the process to find the “quietest” part of the stone to position the face. He is a master of texture . . . hair, fabric, necklaces, and earrings are all given loving treatment to provide visual variation and differentiation from the skin of the head, neck, and shoulders. The special skills ofa true artisan. However, the most distinctive attribute of a Farai Mangenda sculpture is the beautiful smile that radiates happiness and a sense of comfort on the faces of his ladies.
Shona sculpture is perhaps the most important art to emerge from Africa in the 20th century and Farai is a leading exponent of the movement.