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What do an emergency room doctor, a lawyer, an art appraiser, and a bodyguard have in common? No, it’s not the beginning of an inappropriate joke but an inspiring story of hope and compassion.
Several times a year, these four personalities who are real people with busy lives all meet in Harare, Zimbabwe to travel, by truck, to the remote village of Tengenenge.
Tengenenge is like many typical remote Shona villages in the north of Zimbabwe, but in one way, it is far different. The entire Tengenenge Village makes its living through creating sculptors, known as Shona. Shona, which is the name of the indigenous tribe of Zimbabwe, is nine million people strong in Africa. For centuries, the Shona have lived remotely and created sculptured art for home decoration in Africa.
The work is often compared to that of Picasso, Brancusi, Modigliani, and other Western Masters, but the isolated tribe of Shona has never seen the work. The Shona rely on their land and spiritual legacy to inspire the work.
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The Tengenenge Village has three generations of family artists living in it and first-generation art by Henry Munyaradzi, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, and Bernard Matemera is sought after by collectors. All the money from the art goes to support the village as a community.
The Tengenenge villagers are impoverished but have a greatness of heart. They welcome visitors with open arms and appreciate all people. The group of personalities – the doctor, lawyer, art appraiser, and bodyguard – are always welcome and treated like family each time they stay.
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In addition to their desire to collect art pieces for the rest of the world, the group of Americans, accompanied by one Zimbabwean bodyguard named Simmi, bring clothing, toys, crafts, and other supplies with each visit. Many times, these items are gently used from thrift shops, but they are always appreciated with the biggest of smiles and open heart.
The mission of the doctor, the lawyer, the art appraiser, and the bodyguard is to bring to the world the masterful beauty of the hidden Shona gem. The Shona are a beautiful people with a rich history the world should discover.