White Space Gallery

Shona Stone Sculpture



African Sculpture - By the Shona Master Fine Artists of Zimbabwe

The Shona art movement has been heralded as the most important art movement to emerge from Sub-Saharan Africa in the second half of the 20th century. The Shona, who make up about 80% of Zimbabwe's population, have an historic relationship with stone that is unique in Sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, the only major stone ruin from antiquity is in Zimbabwe; the word itself means "Big Houses Made of Stone" in the Shona language.

Most Shona sculptures are abstract works based on traditional beliefs, customs and spiritual concepts. Shona sculpture took the international art world by storm in the mid-1970's, after exhibits in Paris and New York. Sculpture in hard stone is all forms of art in reverse, in as much as it is subtractive, rather than additive.

Shona Fine Artists use basic hand tools-simple, hand made chisels, hammers, rasps, and sandpaper-to create their pieces. The stone, more so than with almost every other sculpture movement, dictates what can and cant be created. Every work is an exploration into the stone; hard physical labour with surprises, frustrations, disappointments and revelations. Sometimes the stone rebels. Impurities an accidental blow, internal fissures, incredibly hard seams...the stone imposes its will over the artist.

Today these Fine Artists set themselves three objectives:
-To only carve the hard beautiful stones that are found in Zimbabwe
-To only carve realistic subjects: figures, heads, animals and groups
-To only carve high quality, sometimes taking many months to complete one piece

There are only a few hundred artists in the Fine Art movement almost all of them living in Harare or Chitungwiza, a town about 10 miles from the capital, because of the proximity to the mines and quarries, which are between one and five hours away by car.

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