Thomas Ndhlebe

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Thomas Ndhlebe was born in 1961 in the Gokwe district in Zimbabwe, the 7th in a family of 8 children. He learnt stone sculpture from his grandfather when he was seven years old, using soapstone. At first he didn’t like it, but with encouragement from his grandfather finished his first work of art, which intrinsically motivated him to continue.  He had difficulty finding more soapstone, so decided to do wood carving. From this point on carving became his hobby. He was employed as a domestic worker and used his master’s wood to make toys during his spare time.  At the age of twenty-seven he worked as a security guard in Harare and was assigned to go to Guruve – which was the turning point in his life.

In 1989 he met world famous artists Bernard Matemera and Josiah Manzi from the Tengenenge Art Community. Bernard Matemera said to him: “You have the brain and hands and the tools are here, have a go.”  He created his first sculpture from serpentine stone, a bird, which he sold to a Gallery owner in Holland, Mr. Ben Joosten. He was offered a job as a salesman, which enabled him to spend more time on sculpturing.  He initiated workshops for visitors to the Tengenenge Art Community and students from other countries. He negotiated a programme for Zimbabwean Artists to go abroad for workshops, which was very successful. This led him to do workshops in other countries such as Holland, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Zambia, America and the United Kingdom. During this period he continued creating and selling sculptures, the most remarkable a sculpture that was commissioned by the United Nations (UNICEF).

He exhibited at the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe where he received a merit certificate. At the six month African Art Conference in Zambia he was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by the Minister of Culture. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands attended one of his workshops as a student. He does workshops with young children with emotional behaviour disorders and young offenders. When he did a workshop at Quick Silver’s Place at Middlesex University, he was awarded an Honorary Degree in Art. He also assisted University students with their Dissertations.