By Lerato Ndlovu
The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe has mourned the death of its Founding Director Derek Huggins days after the death of his wife Helen Leiros a veteran visual artist.
Derek Huggins was a veteran arts administrator, writer and publisher. At the time of his death he was the managing director of Gallery Delta.
In a statement, NACZ Director Nicholas Moyo said Huggins was an exclusive figure from 1975 to 1985 in the Cultural and Creative industries of Zimbabwe.
“Derek was a towering figure as the Chief Executive of the National Arts Foundation from 1975 to 1985 when it was transformed through an act of parliament to the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and he subsequently became the founding Director of the NACZ, a position he held until 1988.
”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,” said Moyo.
The gallery provided a home for many adventurous young black visual artists who were mentored and developed their talents.
“Gallery Delta opened its doors to the public in 1975 with Derek and his wife, NAMA Legend Helen Leiros, as the proprietors of the Centre which they designated for the promotion of contemporary painting and they managed to groom many artists 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.
”The death of Derek has dealt a big blow to Delta Gallery and the Nation at large coming just days after the passing on of his wife Helen who was a seasoned visual artist and was at the core of teaching and mentoring young artists at the centre,” he said.
Derek during his illustrious career 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 thirty years, he intermittently wrote short stories and his first anthology of stories: Stained Earth was published in 2005.
His other published works include Writing Still (2003), Short Writings from Bulawayo vols. 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.
“The sector will never be the same without Derek and we hope 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,” said Moyo.