History of Shona Sculpture
African stone sculpture from Zimbabwe is often called Shona sculpture after the name of the largest tribe engaged in sculpting. Zimbabwe – derived from the Shona word dzimbadzamabwe which means ‘house of stone' – is the only country on the African continent that has large deposits of stone suitable for sculpting.
Artists draw extensively for inspiration on traditional culture: the mythology, folklore, rituals and beliefs in ancestral spirits that remain strong strands even in contemporary, urban Zimbabwean life. Womanhood is constantly celebrated in these sculptures: the nude torso, the dancing girl, mother and child are depicted in a myriad of ways. The natural world and man’s relationship with nature is another important theme, which is a true reflection of the country’s rural roots. This art movement drew, and continues to draw, sculptors from surrounding African counties – Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia – so while the Shona people are still predominant, other cultural influences have enriched the creation of the sculptures that bear their name. In the early 1970s the world recognized that a new art movement had been born in Africa and collectors started snapping up work. The work first became popular in the United Kingdom, Holland and Germany. More recently many more European countries, the US and Australia have hosted exhibitions of Shona sculpture and galleries specializing in the work have opened in the more cosmopolitan cities. Work from some of the first generation of artistic leaders such as Joram Mariga, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Bernard Matemera, Henry Munyaradzi, and Sylvester Mubayi are now included in the permanent collections of many famous museums, private collectors.