Building an art gallery in the midst of war in Zimbabwe

Building an art gallery in the midst of war in Zimbabwe



After being disenchanted with his work as a detective inspector in Rhodesia’s British South Africa Police, Derek Huggins quit his job and in 1975 decided to open an art gallery. The venture, Gallery Delta, is now an important institution in Zimbabwe’s art history. His partner and collaborator was his wife, Helen Lieros, a talented artist in her own right.

In a documentary, Art for Art’s Sake: The Story of Gallery Delta, released in June 2020, Huggins explained:

While we knew that a tiny gallery of three rooms in the midst of conflict and war and sanctions would not make a living for us … in those years it was run as a voluntary, part-time, weekends, nights occupation.

After running the gallery for 46 years, the couple have died in Harare, a week apart, but their legacy will live on.


In the four decades of their stewardship of the gallery they were involved in the curation, organisation, presentation and promotion of approximately 500 exhibitions. Their art magazine, placed in schools, became a vital resource for artists and art historians in Zimbabwe.

A love story

Huggins, born in Kent, England, moved to Rhodesia when he was 19 to join the British South Africa Police. He writes of his experiences in his 2004 book, Stained Earth. And Lieros, who was of Greek parentage, was born in Gweru, Zimbabwe, where she was a school teacher.

They met at a police station where Huggins was based, while Lieros was engaged as a composite artist who drew images of suspects. Their romance blossomed and they married in July 1966. As a union they extended their influence, amplified everything they achieved and uplifted everyone they interacted with.

The Conversation article by - Tinashe Mushakavanhu

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