Zimbabwe, a country in southern Africa, was formally called Rhodesia. After its independence from Britain in 1979, it was renamed Zimbabwe after an ancient ruined city called “the Great Zimbabwe”.
The Great Zimbabwe is a stone city made with stones carefully placed (no cement was used). Amongst the many artifacts found there was a stone bird. This stone bird is the national symbol for the country and use used everywhere on state buildings, logos for state organizations and even the national airline has the bird on the tail fins of its planes. Zimbabwe Bird
So it follows that for a country that has a stone sculpture as its national emblem that its artisans should also specialize in sculpture using some of the countries natural stone.
But this wasn’t always the case. It took a man of vision and passion to develop and encourage local black artists to develop their talent.
That man was the curator of the National gallery of Salisbury (the old name for Zimbabwe’s capital city). His name was Frank McEwen and in his years in charge, from the late fifties, Shona Sculpture really took hold.
Gallery’s were established and many great artists (sculptors) developed their reputation a they were introduced on the world stage.
The country, at the time, was under the control of the white minority. As Britain was planning to transfer it’s colonial interest in Rhodesia to black majority rule, the white minority declared independence from Britain. And so continued white minority rule led by Ian Smith.
Frank McEwen had to constantly fight against the apartheid system. But it proved too much for him. in the early 1970s he retired from his post due to I’ll health.
But the movement in Shona Sculpture, that he started, had been established and continues to thrive. The skill and passion of its sculptors continues to flourish and has a bright future.