The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) has mourned the death of its founding director, veteran arts administrator, writer and publisher Derek Huggins in Harare on Monday.
Huggins death has dealt a big blow to the arts fraternity as it came just days after the passing on of his wife Helen Leiros, a seasoned visual artist who was at the core of teaching and mentoring young artists at Gallery Delta.
In a statement yesterday, NACZ director Nicholas Moyo described Huggins as a towering figure in the cultural and creative industries of Zimbabwe. Huggins was the chief executive of the National Arts Foundation from 1975 to 1985 when it was transformed through an Act of Parliament to NACZ.
“He subsequently became the founding director of the NACZ, a position he held until 1988. He opened the Gallery Delta in 1975 with his wife, Nama Legend Helen Leiros, for the promotion of contemporary painting and was its managing director until his untimely death.
“During this period, he published Arts Rhodesia and Arts Zimbabwe. He published Gallery, the art magazine, from 1994 to 2002 to which he was also a frequent contributor. For over 30 years, he intermittently wrote short stories and his first anthology of stories: Stained Earth was published in 2005.”
Huggins’ other published works included Writing Still (2003), Short Writings from Bulawayo volumes I and II, and Writing Now (2005).
The Letters of Yvonne Vera and Derek Huggins (2002-2004) are lodged in the archive at the National English Literature Museum of South Africa at Grahamstown.
“Derek dedicated his life to the development of the arts sector in Zimbabwe having established Gallery Delta to provide an exhibition space for contemporary paintings, graphics, textiles and ceramics of the highest standard possible.
“The gallery provided a home for many adventurous young black visual artists who were mentored and developed their talents including Hilary Kashiri, Fasoni Sibanda, Ishmael Wilfred, James Jali, Lovemore Kambudzi, and others handpicked from the annual ‘Young Artists’ exhibitions, as they finished their studies, and gradually emerged as important painters in the country,” Moyo said.
He said the arts sector will never be the same without Derek.
“We hope that the trustees of the Gallery Delta Foundation for Art and the Humanities which was established in 2008 will be able to carry on the work of Derek and his wife to ensure the gallery continues to carry on their legacy of promoting the visual arts and young artists in Zimbabwe. May his soul rest in peace.”