National Gallery of Rhodesia

National Gallery of Rhodesia


The National Gallery of Rhodesia was initially planned in the 1930s, but the outbreak of the Second World War impeded the colonial government’s involvement in its progress. However, the idea was given new life when in 1943, Sir James McDonald, a friend and colleague of Cecil John Rhodes, left a bequest of £30,000 to establish an art gallery and art museum in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia.

At the end of 1953, the Inaugural Board of the Gallery was established, chaired by the Governor of Southern Rhodesia. The passing of the National Gallery Act of Parliament in early 1952 saw the dissolution of the Inaugural Board and the establishment of the Board of Trustees.

The Gallery was conceived as a national institution, representing Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland, governed from 1953 to 1963 as a united Federation. Salisbury City Council agreed to take full responsibility for overseeing the building, establishment and administration of the Gallery, and the Mayor of Salisbury was made a fixed appointee to the Board of Trustees. The first responsibilities of the Board were to establish funds for the building, to select the building design, and to appoint a Director. They next established funds for the running and administration costs of the Gallery, and made provision for an endowment fund for the acquisition of a permanent collection. At that time, the building funds consisted only of the McDonald bequest and a further £150,000 had yet to be raised. It was decided that an appeal should be launched among local businesses in support of building a gallery in Southern Rhodesia.

The National Gallery of Rhodesia was designed and directed by Frank McEwen, a British citizen credited with bringing Shona Sculpture to the spotlight. The Gallery was officially opened by The Queen Mother on 16 July 1957 as part of her Royal Tour. McEwen was curator of the Gallery from 1957 until his resignation in 1973.

It is now the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.

Stamp Issues


  • Geoff Brakspear