Sylvester Mubayi (born 1942) is a venerated old man, one of the first generation of Zimbabwean sculptors to achieve international exposure and acclaim. His life and work is guided by Shona culture and beliefs, and as an elder he teaches and advises the younger members of his community through metaphor and storytelling – and his sculptures always tell a story as well.
A native of the Chiota Reserve near Marondera, Mubayi worked as a tobacco grader after leaving school; in 1966 he moved to Salisbury to look for work at the Chibuku Breweries. He joined the Tengenenge Sculpture Village in 1967 as one of its first members, and later worked at the Workshop School founded by Frank McEwen in Vukutu where he was installed as the leader there. He has also served as an artist in residence at the Chapungu Sculpture Park. Mubayi currently lives and works in Chitungwiza; his sculptures are inspired by stories of spirits and the supernatural. The National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe held a retrospective of his life's work in August 2008 to much acclaim.
Sylvester is one of the last surviving links to the early days of modern Zimbabwean sculpture. He began sculpting in the 1960s at the Tengenenge sculpture community in northern Zimbabwe. Later, he was invited to be a resident artist at the National Gallery by its influential first director, Frank McEwen. Sylvester was a founder member of the new sculpture community established by McEwen in Vukutu (eastern Zimbabwe), where he did some of his finest work.
He has exhibited extensively since 1968 in many parts of the world and has work in major collections in Europe and North America. In 1991, The Guardian included Mubayi as one of the top 10 sculptors in the world.
- Solo exhibition, Somerset, UK (2004)
- Custom and Legend: A Culture In Stone, Kew Gardens, London (2000)
- Sculpture Contemporaine des Shona d’Afrique, Musée Rodin, Paris (1971)
- , Guruve, Accessed: 28 August, 2020