Joseph Ndandarika
Joseph Ndandarika.jpg
BornJoseph Ndandarika
DiedMay 1991
EducationSerima Mission
Alma materBAT Workshop School, National Gallery of Zimbabwe
OccupationPainter and Sculptor
Known forBushmen Running From the Rain (1962)
MovementSculpture of Zimbabwe
Spouse(s)Locardia Ndandarika and Rachel Ndandarika
AwardsAward of Merit, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition, 1986

Joseph Ndandarika (1940 – May 1991) was a Zimbabwean sculptor known for his figurative works.


Ndandarika was born in Salisbury (now Harare), Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and grew up in Rusape. He was the son of a Malawian bus driver and a Shona mother. His mother was artistic and occasionally worked as a model for the sculptor Job Kekana, another Rusape resident. Ndandarika was married for a time to the sculptor Locardia Ndandarika, and his children Ronnie Drigo and Virginia Ndandarika are also artists. He also served as a teacher and mentor to a number of artists, including Jonathan Mhondorohuma.

It was John Groeber the founder of Serima Mission and Cornelius Manguma who identified the young boy’s talent in art. The two started nurturing Ndandarika by training him in how to draw and crave. It is said while Joseph Ndandarika was at Serima High; he was chosen to paint several murals inside St Mary’s church.


After completing primary school, he attended a Catholic boarding school at Serima Mission in the late 1950s. His artistic talent was identified there by Fr John Groeber and Cornelius Manguma, who trained him in drawing and woodcarving. While at Serima he was chosen by Groeber to paint several murals inside St. Mary's church.

After leaving Serima in 1959, he moved to Salisbury and joined Frank McEwen's Workshop School in Harare in 1960. Initially he became one of McEwen's leading painters, specializing in landscapes and witchcraft scenes. Due to McEwen's preference for untrained, pagan artists, Ndandarika hid his training at Serima for many years. He also developed a new persona as having been the grandson of a sangoma, alleging that he had undergone extensive training with him. The height of Ndandarika's painting career came when MoMA acquired his 1962 oil, "Bushmen Running From the Rain." Ndandarika's signature was his mixing of the paints on the canvas rather than the palette, a technique that created a highly uneven surface.


After several years of painting, Ndandarika was sent by McEwen to train in stone sculpture with Joram Mariga. During the mid-1960s he gradually shifted more and more towards sculpting, and would end up in all of McEwen's major exhibitions that made Zimbabwean stone sculpture famous. Ndandarika's biggest impact may have been convincing McEwen that in Shona mythology, spirits inhabited rock formations. This formulation had a major impact in McEwen's marketing of his sculpture, leading him to claim that his sculptors were unleashing the spirit in the stone in the course of their work. Ndandarika was able to keep selling through the hard times of the 1970s following McEwen's departure from Rhodesia, and during the 1980s Zimbabwean arts revival he was one of the country's most prominent "first generation" sculptors.

One of Ndandarika’s sculptural works, called Telling Secrets, was depicted on a Zimbabwean stamp issued to commemorate Commonwealth Day on 14 March 1983. It formed the 11c value in a set completed with works by Henry Munyaradzi, John Takawira and Nicholas Mukomberanwa.

In his formative years, he ran a studio in Hatfield where he employed and mentored many young aspiring artists. His works always radiated with a finished sheen, elegance and perfection. He was very particular in the finish and presentation of his work a trait that distinguished him among his peers and placed him in high esteem with collectors, gallerists and art connoisseurs.

His art embraced our concepts of religion, morality, family and community. Through his work, Joseph Ndandarika does not remind people that traditional beliefs of the Shona have never altered, nor have they been re-thought, modified, or removed from their original, traditional matrix to suit the needs of the urbanised Shona people. Our traditions are still relevant today.

Throughout his vast creativity and output, Ndandarika was always searching for new themes and new postures to articulate African culture and traditions. Following Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, his output became prolific. He became one of the most financially and artistically successful artists for a decade until his death in 1991.

Ndandarika’s mastery is exhumed through his sculptures which are capable of expressing searing grief and loss; the fragility of our earth -bound existence; the humour and love that is possible in human relations; and the constant presence of spiritual powers and links with previous generations.

Most of his artworks Ndandarika portrayed dilemmas of life not only with a consummate skill, but with an understanding and expression that surpasses humanity. He worked endlessly with a figure as a means of portraying elements of both worlds. Some of his works include Hair Dressing, Muroora, I Lost My Money, Magic Women, Signed, and Telling Secrets among others.


  • 1963 New Art from Rhodesia, Commonwealth Institute, London
  • 1964 International Art exhibition, Lusaka, Zambia
  • 1968 New African Art; organised by MoMA, New York, USA
  • 1971 Sculpture Contemporaine des Shonas d’Afrique, Musée Rodin, Paris, France
  • 1981 Retrospective Exhibition of Shona Sculpture, Zimbabwe House, London
  • 1985 Contemporary Stone Sculpture from Zimbabwe, Irving Sculpture Gallery, Sydney, Australia
  • 1987 International Contemporary Art fair, Los Angeles, USA
  • 1988 Chicago International Art Exposition, Chicago, USA
  • 1988 Australia Art Expo, Darling Harbour, Sydney
  • 1990 Contemporary Stone Carving from Zimbabwe, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK
  • 1990 Stone Sculpture from Zimbabwe, Millesgården Museum, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 2000 Chapungu: Custom and Legend – A Culture in Stone, Kew Gardens, UK


Some of his awards and achievements include in 1981 he came second during the Annual Nedlaw Exhibition, at National Gallery of Zimbabwe, in 1985 Joseph was highly commended at the Annual Nedlaw Exhibition, in 1983 his work depicted in a stamp issue of Common wealth day, March 14, Commemorative Stamps, PTC, Zimbabwe and in 1986 he received an Award of Merit, during Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition held at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.[1]


Joseph Ndandarika died tragically in May 1991.


  1. [1], The Herald, Published: 8 May, 2018, Accessed: 25 August, 2020