Raise your spirit

Sydney Sukuta

At 17 S. Virginia St., about 20 steps south of the Truckee River, there is a tiny glass-front shop that houses wonders not often seen in Reno—Zimbabwe wonders. There are lively paintings, intricately detailed stone sculptures, wood carvings and bright batik clothing. The store is called Bantu Spirit, and it exudes the kind of energy that boosts Reno’s cultural diversity. Owners Sandra Adams and Sydney Sukuta opened shop on April 1. A grand opening is slated for July 27. The owners are also putting together a lecture series to increase cultural exchange and awareness. Sukata agreed to answer a few questions about the store last week. To reach Bantu Spirit, call 333-1717.

What does Bantu Spirit mean?

From the tip of South Africa almost until the Nile, the word Bantu is used to refer to people. So it means “people’s spirit.”

How did you end up in Reno selling art from Zimbabwe?

I am originally from Zimbabwe, and Sandra is from America. I came to Reno to attend [the University of Nevada, Reno] and completed my Ph.D. in chemical physics. But there are two sides to me. On the one hand, I am a scientist and I enjoy what I do, but I also have a desire to give back to my people, so to speak, to the African Empire. Zimbabwe art is very unique and it’s part of an expression of who I am. It’s what I share with the world.

Where do you get your art and clothing?

Photo By David Robert

Friends and family do most of the art, although we are not limited to that. We also feature art by local artists, by people living more in obscurity. We’re open to empowering artists of all creeds and cultures.

What makes Zimbabwe art different from other African art?

Shona art—Shona is the largest group of African people in Zimbabwe—uses stone. The name Zimbabwe means “house of stone.” Stone sculptures in Zimbabwe can be dated to around [the year] 1200. This skill has matured so that artists today have a lot of dexterity when working with stone. Working with rock is not easy, so stone sculpting sticks out. … It’s what puts Zimbabwe on the map.

How much of a market is there for your products?

Because we are new, we don’t have the full scope of the market yet. But before we did this, there was an interest. We’ve had a lot of support throughout the whole demographic cross section. I think people of all races and age groups can find something interesting here. The store is about giving Reno a sense of completeness. You rarely find African art here. We are filling a niche. Those people who are looking for the missing piece to their collection will find it in our store.

What’s your overall mission?

Zimbabwe is going through an economic crisis, and so they’ve resorted to native technologies such as art. This gives them a broad economic base, and I am pleased to be encouraging that. … We’re trying to increase awareness and tolerance, to get to know each other better as brothers and sisters.