Shona Sculptures

The Shona are a group of peoples inhabiting parts of southern Africa. The Shona comprise over three quarters of the population of Zimbabwe and smaller groups live in South Africa, Zambia, and Mozambique. Shona artists are well known for their stone sculptures and are typically called "Shona" sculptures. The stone carving has been part of the Zimbabwean culture since 1200 AD when Great Zimbabwe, an archaeological masterpiece of their early ancestors, was built. The re-emergence of this stone carving tradition began in the 1950s with Shona artists expressing extraordinary emotional power through solid forms and beautiful surfaces.

During its early years of growth, the nascent "Shona sculpture movement" was described as an art renaissance, an art phenomenon and a miracle. Critics and collectors could not understand how an art genre had developed with such vigour, spontaneity and originality in an area of Africa which had none of the great sculptural heritage of West Africa and had previously been described in terms of the visual arts as artistically barren.

In the late 1960s, the world recognized a new art movement had been born in Africa and leading international collectors started buying Shona sculptures with the world's most talented carvers being in Zimbabwe. In spite of increasing worldwide demand for the sculptures, there has been little commercialization of the art from. The most dedicated of Shona artists display a high degree of integrity, never copying and still working entirely by hand, with spontaneity and a confidence in their skills, unrestricted by externally imposed ideas of what their "art" should be.

Now, over fifty years on from the first tentative steps towards a new sculptural tradition, many Zimbabwean artists make their living from full-time sculpting and the very best can stand comparison with contemporary sculptors anywhere else. The sculpture they produce speaks of fundamental human experiences - experiences such as grief, elation, humour, anxiety and spiritual search - and has always managed to communicate these in a profoundly simple and direct way that is both rare and extremely refreshing.

The artist 'works' together with his stone and it is believed that 'nothing which exists naturally is inanimate'- it has a spirit and life of its own. One is always aware of the stone's contribution in the finished sculpture and it is indeed fortunate that in Zimbabwe a magnificent range of stones are available from which to choose: hard black springstone, richly coloured serpentine and soapstones, firm grey limestone and semi-precious Verdite and Lepidolite. Most serpentine stone being used was formed over 2.6 billion years ago.

We invite you to browse and enjoy our collection of Shona Sculptures.