Twisted-wire junk-sculpture automata from Zimbabwe

From the It Takes a Village blog, an account of Zimbabwean artist Dexter Nyamainashe, whose twisted-wire junk-sculpture automata are fabulous, political and controversial:

Dexter Nyamainashe of Chiweshe, Zimbabwe is aged 41 and six years ago he started combining various art pieces he made to create what he describes as a "Global Village of Peace". He uses scrap material to make little figures, minature homes and scenes which come alive when he rotates a piece of wire behind the art piece. The minatures move, they cook, they wash laundry, they play, they smoke a joint, they look for cattle etc... The animals fly, they run, they eat and they kill...

Dexter says he has had a difficult time promoting his art locally for the following reasons:

a) The local city council has called his art nonsense and refused to give him a license to operate. He has been chased away and even arrested for "illegal" vending.
b) Locals are spooked by his "Global Village". He says some people think it might be related to witchcraft so he has to explain to them by demonstrating how it works.
c) He used to work with the local art gallery but their commission was too high leaving him with very little.
d) He managed to gain the support of a local shop owner who tells the city council that Dexter is part of their own store display. This means he can display his work free of charge, avoid police harassment and avoid costly flea market charges.

Meet Dexter Nyamainashe - A Truly Gifted Artist (via Afrigadget)


  1. I grew up in Zimbabwe. There’s a rich tradition of making wire automata, particularly “remote control” cars and trucks, which are pushed along by a stiff wire with a steering wheel at the end. The wire leads into a steering mechanism within the car, so turning the steering wheel will angle the wheels on the car.

    One of my proudest possessions was a wire articulated lorry like this. I bought it for a ten whole Zimbabwe dollars.

  2. @WombatSam Yep, you see the same thing in South Africa too. It looks like this guy takes it to a whole new level though.

  3. “Locals are spooked by his “Global Village”” – Superstition as has stunted many a great artist/movement… Funny how the less technological a culture, the more superstitious it is. Or, wait, maybe that’s not so funny.

    Anyhow, At firs I thought this was going to devolve into some sort ot lookit-this-afrian-steampunk-dude. But it didn’t and, in fact, is really sorta cool. Art. I love art.

  4. godfather: i think technological cultures get pretty superstitious too.

    it’s not like Reason rules in the “First World”..

  5. ZLOO: this is very true and I thought that after i typed it.

    As an artist myself: here is an interesting (but hopefully short) story:
    I live in San Diego. The Chopra Center in Carlsbad (yes the same Chopra) contacted me and wanted to hang and sell my work. OK. Cool. I have a contract that I have people who display my work sign as I need to protect myself against loss/damage/theft, etc. (having had theft come up in the past…) It’s a very simple document. So i say: i need you to sign this contract saying you take responsibility for it and, if it goes missing, you’ll reimburse me for it. Good ‘nuf and if they say no then they say no.

    But they say: well, we fully take responsibility but won’t sign the contract cause we feel we will be “manifesting” it’s loss. So we FULLY take responsibility but won’t sign our names to it.


    So I said no thanks. But the fact is: they were all sorts of superstitious about a contract. By the same token, it’s as if by having car insurance i’m attracting an accident.

    New Age Superstitious Freaks!

    So, yes, I agree – as long as simple minded folks don’t die out, neither will superstition and so innovators like this fellow are stuck thinking “goddamn it’s hard to be intelligent in this world!”

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