The Shona are the oldest tribe in Zimbabwe and are believed to the legendary guardians of King solomon’s mines. The city of Great Zimbabwe is constructed with tight-fitting granite blocks without the use of mortar. The complex of ruins from which the modern nation of Zimbabwe took it’s name is derived from the Shona word “dzimba dza mabwe” meaning House of Stone. The large stone walls of this city were built for the King and also for defense. At the start of the 15th Century, Great Zimbabwe had about 10-20,000 inhabitants and was at its cultural height. Each of the monoliths surrounding the city once bore a carved Zimbabwe bird, which symbolized power and is now a famous Zimbabwean symbol often carved by the Shona people.
The Shona stone carvers are known as “People of the Mist”. Within the remote Inyanga Mountains an ethereal mist leads and guides them through their quest. Their religion is very spiritual and they believe in two kinds of spirits -Shave spirits and the Vadzimu spirits which are considered to be ancestoral spirits. The people also believe in good and bad spirits, the bad spirits have to do with witchcraft while the good spirits may inspire individual talents along with healing, music or artistic ability. They use witchcraft and traditional dances to summon the spirits of their ancestors. In Shona sculptures, the artist expresses the fundamental relationships between two guiding forces of Shona life, this being the visible physical world and the unseen spiritual world that exists in various cultures. The stone carvers believe that every rock contains a spirit essence that influences how the stone will be shaped and transformed during carving.
The stone sculptures produced by these artists display great individuality of form and content. Every piece is an original and is valued by the astute collector. the art is extremely seductive and amazingly beautiful with each stone containing rich colours and textures which invite one to explore and dtouch visually, emotionally and intellectually. for the most-part, Shona sculptors are self-taught and their artistic skill has impressed art collectors and dealers whenever they have been first exposed to it.
Shona sculptors use locally found stone and have become some of the most creative artists of our time. These stone sculptures are only found and carved in Zimbabwe which continues to be the centre for stone sculpture in Africa.