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by Tommaso Fiscaletti / 28.10.2014

If you imagine something and then you’re able to give it form, you’re bringing into existence that which you cannot see but which already has a certain texture. Spirituality has a form, it’s not pure fantasy. Mambakwedza Mutasa, a Zimbabwean spiritual man and artist breathes life into every sculpture he creates.

It was this idea of giving form to a spiritual energy that convinced me to embark on a photographic project focusing on Mamba and his work. When looking at his creations – characters, animals and creatures made out of iron, wood and various recycled materials – they seem to have a spark inside them, something that makes them appear alive.

Mamba has been living and working in Hout Bay for two years. He set up his factory in a courtyard nearby the town, where he has a team of friends that work with him. This small precinct has become a hub of various activities relating to arts and crafts and is gaining popularity.


“Cape Town is a special place and it’s a good place for art,” muses Mamba. “This, in particular, is a quiet spot in which to live. The market in my country is in trouble. Here, in South Africa, everything is a lot more international. I’ve even been up to Johannesburg, but it’s too noisy up there,” he laughs. “There, it’s man that rules the city. Here in Cape Town, nature controls things, and that suits me better.”

Mamba has completed artist’s residencies in Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, and abroad in Canada, the US, Holland and even Italy. “I was in Venice, a place of great inspiration! I’ve always loved working while traveling. The journey creates a juxtaposition between yourself and others, and is fundamental to me. In recent years, before I came here, I was in Zimbabwe with my brother Chenjerai, who is also an artist, but we had to do other jobs to help sustain our art.” Chenjerai is also an accomplished artist and still lives in Zim, where he devotes much time to his family. He sometimes makes the journey to Cape Town to work with Mamba.

I explain to Mamba that the first time I passed by (having just arrived from Italy), I saw his creatures in front of his factory and I had this sensation that they were about to move! I think it was then that I first noticed his special perception of the nature of things. He laughs at my story… his laughter is such an integral part of his persona.


I show Mamba some of the portraits I’ve taken.

“I like the point of view that you have repeated in some of these photographs between animate, inanimate objects and signs. My initial training back home was as a painter and these images seem to remind me of the paintings,” he says.

He notices that the photos reveal how sometimes the iron animals are his accomplices, and their expressions and postures give the impression that they’re waiting for his signal.

He tells me that in Zim most of the artists work in stone, but his relationship with many materials makes his craft more varied. “I think that every type of material, every object that comes to me has a value and thus I use it to make something. I think it’s a very Christian way to see things, nothing happens by chance. I’m inspired by God the creator, to create and talk about spiritual things based on his ‘word’. I could call myself a preacher artist or spiritual doctor.”


Mamba has a penchant for Michelangelo and the great masters that, through their depiction of biblical characters, were able to reflect man. “I love art when there’s something far more profound behind it, that gets people to understand something else,” he explains. He makes me see how some of his works are more fundamental than others because it’s as if they were “dictated to him by God”. Mamba is a truly mystical man and I have a certain affinity with that part of him.

In the chaos of his workshop, amongst torches, wrenches, scrap and all kinds of tools, one can see creatures crammed in everywhere – iron bodies, and piles of waste materials that could possibly have another form tomorrow.

In the centre of the room there’s a huge hand made of wooden dowels, an incredibly dynamic piece that is also a seated figure. Even this piece is born out of what he defines as the “normal flow of things that happen due to higher power.”


“It’s important that this divine act be able to contain and protect a man at his core,” explains Mamba.

Every now and then somebody enters his factory to greet him enthusiastically. He seems to be well liked by all who know him. “If you’re true to yourself and to others, people take heed. And like a reflection, it returns.

We talk at length about how much creating something can lead to learning about others, having new experiences and traveling to further your work. We’re both on very different paths but for the same reasons, in some ways.

He invites me to join a project in Zim, another place in Africa that interests me greatly and that I must see. “We’re preparing a programme for artists in residence in our country (near Harare) to welcome artists from all over the world who have the desire to find themselves and work in-amongst great big rocks and in immense peace,” he tells me.

Hopefully my journey will cross paths with Mambakwedza ‘Mamba’ Mutasa again, in his homeland, in the not-too-distant future.

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*Images © Tommaso Fiscaletti

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