A SCULPTOR who travels more than 8,000 miles to a North Yorkshire beauty spot every year to exhibit his work has spoken of the hardship caused by coronavirus back home in Africa.

Dudzai Mushawepwere is one of the Matombo sculptors who have been coming to Newby Hall, near Ripon, every summer for the past 14 years.

This year, Dudzai had to come without any of his fellow artists because of visa complications caused by the pandemic.

“When we started coming in 2006, we thought it would be a one-off but now we feel part of Newby Hall, knowing that people enjoy our work,” he said.

“This year it has been much quieter because of Covid, but it was important for at least one of us to come to let people know we are still working and making our sculptures.”

The sculptures, made from natural stone found in different parts of Zimbabwe, are bought direct from solo artists, workshops and co-operatives, and shipped to North Yorkshire.

Father-of-two Dudzai, who comes from a town called Chitungwiza, 30km from Harare, said the impact of coronavirus had been felt very hard in Zimbabwe, where there is no Government financial aid.

“We went into lockdown in March and we didn’t have any customers because most of them come from abroad, and it is the only source of income for the artists and their families,” he explained.

“We had around 200 people from the town die and it has been very, very tough because there has been no support. People try to sell their own produce but some will be going hungry.”

Dudzai, who began sculpting as a boy of 13, has been working on five bird sculptures during this year’s visit.

He hopes he will be able to return to Newby Hall with other Matombo sculptors next year if the pandemic is under control.

“As long as people here still enjoy our work, we will always come back – Newby Hall means a lot to us,” he said.

The plan is for Dudzai to carry on exhibiting in the gardens at Newby Hall from Wednesday-Sunday until October 11, and then on October 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30 and November 1. However, visitors are advised to check on 01423 322583.