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 About Shona Sculptures


History of Shona Sculptures

It has been documented that the people we know as the Shona started carving stones more than 2000 years ago. This was during the era of Great Zimbabwe. However, it wasn't until the mid-1900's that the art was 'revived' and noticed by art collectors around the world. Originally, they would carve to express both personal and spiritual beliefs. They are very religious and spiritual people. The Shona believe in ancestral spirits known as “Vadzimu” spirits. Many of them are often visited by their ancestors in their dreams. The group will also use traditional ways to summon the spirits of ancestors and to pay their respects to those ancestoral spirits. Shona sculptures demonstrate the unity between our two worlds, the physical and the spiritual. These incredible stone carvers hold firm to the belief that every stone and every thing has a life spirit. It is that 'life spirit' that influences what sculpture that stone will become. Many artists believe that it is their job to “release the spirit from the stone”. Shona artists that have been carving for many years have developed their own distinct style. Each sculpture is an original and completely hand carved by an artist. There are no factories for such art, therefore, these pieces are extremely valuable and when you buy Shona art, you are guaranteed to own a piece that was hand produced and is one of a kind. These stone sculptures are not only attractive and valuable because of the person who carved it, but also because of the beauty of the stone from which it was carved. Many of the artists are self-taught, although some have learned through the generations. Because the Shona are so spiritual, the artists have been able to retain their own artistic styles and freedom of expression. Consequently, these Shona stone sculptures have become renowned around the world for both their artistic impression as well as the distinct beauty of the stone.

Today Shona sculpture can also be referred to as Zimbabwe stone sculpture because more than just the Shona people have learned the carving skills of past generations. In fact, some sculptures are even coming from South Africa. The talented artists of Africa have been very successful in taking the traditional Shona sculpture out of Africa and making it a worldwide art phenomenon.

Shona People
The name Shona came to use during the colonial era and is used to represent a vast group of people who do not belong to a single ethnic orgin, but many ethnicities. Although the Shona do not share a singular ethnic history, they do share similar languages. Among the Shona of today are descendants of the builders of Great Zimbabwe.  Today the Shona peoples primarily inhabit Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique.  Currently, in Zimbabwe, the 9.3 million Shona people represent approximately 80% of the population.  The Shona are descendants of several groups of peoples who have inhabited Zimbabwe for up to two millennia. Today the people referred to as "Shona" consist primarily of five clans, the Korekore, Manyika, Ndau, Karanga, and Zezuru. The Shona maintain a strong clan identity in an increasingly modern world where over 2.5 million Zimbabweans have moved to the cities and towns.  Although a large number of Zimbabweans have moved to the cities and towns, most continue to live in rural areas dominated by one or another of the clans.

The Shona people of Zimbabwe have been hand sculpting stone into works of art for nearly a thousand years.   Even though the craft is ancient, the style has continually evolved and the carvings created today are both beautiful and elegant.  The contemporary, yet eternal, shape of these sculptures bring splendor to the home and compliments any decor.  The themes these sculptures portray represent the esteemed values in the Shona culture of family, love, life and nature. A single artist is able to support an entire village or community on his earnings alone. The Shona are very community oriented, there is no belief in personal wealth or gain, only in what is best for the community. Therefore, the earnings that are made from their art go to support everyone, not just the artist.


About Serpentine Stone

Zimbabwe's natural resources include minerals such as chromite coal, platinum, asbestos, copper, nickel, gold (which drew European settlers and led to the formation of Rhodesia), iron ore, diamond, and the beautiful stones (primarily serpentine types) from which Zimbabwe's talented artists (the Shona) have coaxed beautiful sculptures that have earned worldwide recognition.  Serpentine stone can be found in Zimbabwe with  colors ranging from black and green to yellows, orange, grey, red, and even purple.  Each piece is unique, both in the expression made by the sculptor's hands and in the natural patterns in the rock formed millions of years ago.  


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