Born in 1942 in the Chiota Reserve, near Manrondera, Sylvester Mubayi is one of the most well known first generation master sculptors to come out of Zimbabwe. After leaving school, Mubayi worked as a tobacco grader and moved to Harare in 1966 to seek employment at the Chibuku Breweries. There, he met Tom Blomfield, founder of the Tengenenge Sculpture Community, in front of the National Gallery, where he was invited to come to Tengenenge to carve.
An undeniable talent, Mubayi was later asked by Frank McEwen, the director of the National Gallery, to come to work at the institution. A natural, Mubayi was eventually invited to Nyanga in Eastern Zimbabwe, to lead Vkutu, a new art community established by McEwen. In 1987, Frank McEwen said of him,
“Certainly when I knew him he was by far the greatest sculptor there. I have tremendous admiration for him. Some of his work is as great as anything in the world.”
Sylvester Mubayi creates sculptures of great beauty, often with a traditional and spiritual meaning to them; his depictions of messenger birds — whom act as mediators between the mortal and spirit world — have become a trope of his artistic practice. Similarly, Mubayi’s work has become a way for viewers to connect with Zimbabwe through his inspired vision.
Mubayi now lives and works in Chitungwiza, an artist community on the outskirts of Harare. He spends much of his time mentoring some of the most talented emerging artists in his field, and remains a staple of the Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture community.
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.