Embassy of Zimbabwe, London
|Embassy of Zimbabwe in London|
|Location||Covent Garden, London|
|Address||429 Strand, London, WC2R 0JR|
|Ambassador||Gabriel Mharadze Machinga|
The Embassy of Zimbabwe in London is located in Zimbabwe House at 429 Strand in central London. It was previously a High Commission and became an embassy after Zimbabwe's departure from the Commonwealth on 7 December 2003 in protest of international criticism of Robert Mugabe's regime's human rights record and its policies.
Architecture and sculptures
The building was designed by architect Charles Holden in 1907–08 as the headquarters of the British Medical Association and featured a series of sculptures by Jacob Epstein representing the development of science and the Ages of Man, his first major commission in London.[note 1] The nakedness of many of these sculptures was initially shocking to Edwardian sensibilities and provoked considerable controversy at the time. The controversy soon died down and the mutilated condition of many of the sculptures has nothing to do with prudish censorship; it was caused in the 1930s when possibly dangerous projecting features were hacked off after pieces fell from one of the statues.
Rhodesian High Commission
Zimbabwe House was originally called Rhodesia House, and served as the High Commission of Southern Rhodesia from 1923 until the Rhodesian UDI on 11 November 1965. Rhodesia was unique in being the only British colony to have a High Commission, as only dominions (and later, independent Commonwealth members) were represented by such legations.
After the UDI, Rhodesia's High Commissioner, Brigadier Andrew Skeen was declared persona non-grata by the British Government and ordered to leave the country. However, because of concerns over diplomatic property under international law, Rhodesia House was not seized by the British Government. It simply became a Representative Office with no official diplomatic status, until the colony gained independence as Zimbabwe in 1980.
The embassy is frequently the focus of protests against the Zimbabwean government and the regime of President Robert Mugabe.
Business Day newspaper reported in 2002 that the deeds of the building had been given to the Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi as surety for oil supplied to Zimbabwe by the Libyan state oil company Tamoil.
- Epstein's description of the sculptures: "The series represent symbolical figures of scientific study and research, and a presentment of Life, its origin and growth. Apart from my desire to decorate a beautiful building, I have wished to create noble and heroic forms to express in sculpture the great primal facts of man and woman. The first figure starting on the Strand side presents Primal Energy, a symbolic male figure who, with outstretched arm in a forceful gesture as if pressing its way through mists and vapours, blows the breath of life into the atom. Next 'Matter,' a figure of rude and primitive aspect, who folds in his arms a mass of rock in which is vaguely infolded the form of a child; thus form and life emerge from the inchoate and lifeless, Hygeia, symbolic figure of the Goddess of Medicine and Health, holds the – cup and serpent. Chemical Research, a male figure intently examining a retort. Academic Research, a male figure examining a scroll; these two figures form the corner decoration of the building; on Agar Street come 'Mentality,' the Brain, a figure holding a winged skull, symbol of Thought. Next is the Newborn, an old woman presents the newly-born child in a cloth. Youth, an aspiring figure with head and arms upraised. Man, a figure of man in his energy and virility. To-day the use of great words like 'virility' has become so smirched by coarse shame that it becomes a hazardous thing for an artist to use them in a description of his work. This figure looks towards a figure of Maternity, a brooding mother holding a child in her arms. The figures that follow represent Youth, joy in life, youths and maidens reaching stretching arms towards each other; they represent young life, puberty ('puberty' is another word that is banned). Throughout I have wished to give a presentation of figures joyous, energetic, and mystical. That the figures should have an ideal aspect, be possessed of an inner life, is a requirement of sculpture, and also they should adhere to the forms of Nature, the divine aspect of bodies; it is very difficult for me to say in words much that I have wished to put into these figures; the bald description does not sound adequate; they will suggest meanings I cannot express in words."
- BBC On This Day —
- London's Transport Museum Photographic Archive —