Toledo Garden Zimbabwe exhibit

‘A Garden of Wonders’ in Toledo

The Toledo Botanical Garden hosts an exhibition of more than 100 stone sculptures created by Zimbabwean artists.

More than 100 stone sculptures will be scattered across the Toledo Botanical Garden’s 66-acre grounds this fall for “A Garden of Wonders: Stone Sculptures of Zimbabwe,” an exhibition celebrating works by artists from the southern African nation. 

Exhibition curator Vivienne Croisette, who hails from the United Kingdom, worked with multiple British artists prior to seeing a piece by a Zimbabwean sculptor at a show in the U.K. 

“I fell in love with the sculpture,” she recalls. “I found it quite remarkable, with the different style they managed to put into the stone with just hand tools.”

Croisette traveled to Zimbabwe to meet artists she could represent at shows in her home country. But once there, she decided to make the African nation her home. In 2000, she created ZimSculpt to highlight the art form, and she and her husband travel around the globe to take part in shows as they promote works by more than 500 Zimbabwean artists.

“I’ve realized how privileged I am being born in the U.K.,” says Croisette. “Not everybody has those opportunities in life, and I just thought I could do something with all of my skill and experience and use that for people that really need it and can achieve something with it.”

Zimbabwean stone sculpture is new to the art world, where it took hold in the 1950s, but it’s a skill that has been passed down through generations. Currently, ZimSculpt is working with fifth-generation sculptors.

Croisette says the works can range from distinctly African pieces to abstract forms. Elephants, rhinos, buffalos and other animals are depicted, as well as detailed busts of human figures. Two sculptors will be on-site this fall at the Toledo Botanical Garden, creating new works to sell and demonstrating the creative process, as they sculpt materials such as opal, springstone and serpentine. 

“All of the sculptures are made with hand tools,” says Croisette. “There are no machines involved.”

“A Garden of Wonders: Stone Sculptures from Zimbabwe” runs Sept. 2–Oct. 29. For more 
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