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The other side of Dr Guramatunhu

By Robert Mukondiwa

He is known as one of the best eye specialists in the world but his other side is an interesting and amazing understanding of the world of stone sculpture.

Solomon Guramatunhu
Solomon Guramatunhu

If he were to have peers in his line of work. Peers that he should be identified with and talked about in the same aura of artistic sophistication, then Solomon Guramatunhu would stand alongside, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Van Gogh.

After all he is the ultimate artiste; a man who touches the window to the soul, the eye, and restores within it the priceless gift of sight.

The power to see the beauty of the work of the creator. And indeed the beauty of the works of the hands of man. So while Michelangelo excited the sight of art connoisseurs, his works would never gain acclaim without the work of people like Guramatunhu.

A celebrated optometrist, Dr Guramatunhu has been known to the world, at least outside the realm of his close associates and intimate group of friends as the good eye doctor.

And yet when he retreats into the hills of Borrowdale and his warm home, away from the eyes, literally, of the world, Solomon Guramatunhu has a beautiful passion to which he retreats and it is therapeutic to him.

Unsurprisingly, ‘‘Solly’’ as he is known to his loved ones is an avid art lover and collector, with a beautiful collection of paintings and sculptures that make his home a therapeutic retreat for the avid arts lover.

As his gate opens one is welcomed by a sight at the foot of the hill of a stunning sculpture by the celebrated Nicholas Mukomberanwa of two lovers embracing. Presumably after having come down from the mountain at which his stunning house is perched.

The house itself speaks to the theme of the welcoming artwork; it’s architecture has it hugging the mountain. Not in a constricting manner as a serpent subduing a field mouse, far from it.

Instead, it is a warm loving embrace that tells of a lifestyle beyond this expansive garden that is hospitable and equally sophisticated as love itself is.

Dotted in the garden are massive works of art; metal and spring stone sculptures that look like they are out of a romantic storybook.

Why would anyone put together so much artwork? It would seem a passion somewhat extravagant in its romanticism, somewhat starry eyed. Quixotic?

Far from it. He does it not for ostentatious reasons. Showing off is hardly on his mind actually.

“That art, the stone sculptures, over and above the fact that I love art and it speaks to me, is there because it is by local sculptors. I want to support local artistes and have the various guests who visit my house, some from overseas, to see it, love it and ask about it. We have to make sure people buy from local art creators to grow our industry,” says the aesthete.

And so artwork by names in Zimbabwe such as Mukomberanwa and the doctor’s good friend, celebrated sculptor Dominic Benhura stands like colossus in select spaces in the garden, itself an artwork of ‘‘Edenic’’ proportions, if ever there were such a word.

“I also curate from small artistes. I have been to Guruve for example in Tengenenge and what I saw there was amazing. The amount of talent that is yearning to be celebrated and rewarded is huge,” he says, his face lighting up with a passionate joy that is almost palpable.

And his chiselled well groomed self and facial nuances also make him among god’s Magnus Opus in his creative collection. Which is probably why Dominic Benhura decided to recreate the form of Solly in art. He has a larger than life sculpture of himself that stands in the garden beholding the house.

He is not narcissistic about it. In fact he is very modest when the ‘‘statue’ of Solly is mentioned.

Inside the residence is the miracle of modern architecture woven seamlessly to the artwork that adorns the walls. Every room has a view as light makes his home a second a home. Licking every room with its warm somewhat kaleidoscopic rays.

“The architect was a close friend of mine,” reveals Solly.

“When she took me to the property and we saw the land, she said Solly, I want to design something that reflects who you are. Something welcoming and that loves life. So she created a semi-circle that hugs the hill with love,” he says.

“She ensured every room had a view of the rolling hills overlooking Chishawasha Hills, Borrowdale Brooke and the surrounds. She also created in it an amphitheatre for me to host my friends. She said ‘I want the house to be a place where like-minded people meet to enjoy and reflect on the blessings of life’ and that is what she created,” he reveals.

Perhaps in the history of human existence only the Great Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s chef-d’œuvre product the Great Gatsby could come close to hosting a party like the good doctor does.

Journalist Hopewell Ching’ono set the world of social media alight, their appetites whet and wishing for an invite to one of the receptions Solly throws after posting on social media how flawless and giddy they are.

At them he hosts the who’s who of society without exception. Save, of course for anyone with a weave.

“I love the beauty of African hair. The African woman is a beautiful creature like a butterfly or a rose. You cannot add onto it,” he says.

As a result of his passionate love for nature and natural beauty no creature donning the hair of another, living, dead or undead, has ever entered the doors of Solly’s home!

Finally, there is the beauty on the wall to admire in this exclusive private tour of his curated beauties. Various works of art from oil on canvas to mystical Aboriginal works from Australia that make this house as rich as an art gallery.

It is to the individual what the Louvre is to the international aesthete no less.

“I want people to appreciate art. It warms me every day even when I am low,” he says.

Recently, on a visit to his home for Christmas.

“She stood by that lady wearing a yellow dress posing like it does and she posted on Instagram ‘Feeling Good by Dominic Benhura’ and it went around the world. When I am feeling low, I go to that feeling good lady and she lifts my spirits,” he says.

That therapy. The therapy that soothes his soul comes from the artwork.

And so when next you see him looking into old eyes and restoring sight. When you see him smile at a young man who can see again and offers his warm smile. When next time you hear of his work, often helping the poor free of charge, know that this soul, when it faces its own gloom, is healed by the beautiful and therapeutic effects of art. The Herald.

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