Zimbabwean Sculptor John James, in conversation with DKP about his work

John James

Born: Harare, Zimbabwe

Residence: Witbank, South Africa

BLOGGER: RHULANI SHABANGU

John James born in Harare, Zimbabwe, discovered artistic genesis playing with clay as a young child with his mother. From the construction of wire cars to playful interactions on the streets of Zimbabwe to the experimentation of discarded materials found in scrap yards, that have been used to create captivating pieces – the sculptor is self-taught in his craft through investigation and prides himself in his constant drive to create new works.

In an insightful conversation with the artist, he elucidates on his artistic process and provides insight into the influences on his practice. Labelled a ‘Collector’, his artworks usually begin with a resource material that is no longer being used for its intended purpose and has subsequently been discarded. He gives an example of a car’s exhaust pipe which was trashed by the owner of the vehicle; in this his vision would later distinguish the movement of the curves of a woman.

These contemporary sculptures maintain the essence of traditional African sculpted figures, encapsulated by the artist’s inventive use of wood, refined and unrefined metals as well as clay materials that result in beautiful figures integrating both animal and human characteristics in their unique aesthetic. James passionately seeks to express his views on political struggles, the hardships that plague Africa and its people, as well as those encountered on the odyssey of the arts.

What remains fascinating about the artist’s work is his ability to recycle and transform superfluous materials into dynamic characters, while simultaneously maintaining the original structure of the item – this can be significantly observed in the shovel modified to a wide eyed mystical bird. This reflects the artist’s unity with his generously resourceful environment and skilful craftsmanship as a sculptor. 

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