Zimbabwean Stone

Zimbabwe’s Rocks

Shona Sculpture uses naturally occurring stone. But not just any stone. The ttpe off rock used has to possess certain qualities, such as easy to carve and shape. Luckily Zimbabwe, where these sculptures are made has an abundance of such rocks and stone.

Colored stone ebblesThe stone is found in a geological structure called the Great Dyke. This is a natural wonder in Zimbabwe’, running from north to south and strewn with an incredible variety of rocks of many types and colors.

The Shona sculptors are thus blessed with an almost unlimited supply of this stone. But as important is the variety and patterns it comes in. It’s said that no two stones are alike they differ in both their visual appearance and their spirit. Each stone has a spirit which speaks to the artist. The sculptor tunes into this spirit which helps him shape the rock.

The stone chosen for the sculptures include, black springstone, highly variegated serpentine stone, limestone, verdite and lepidolite. Verdite polishes up to a beautiful green color, it’s sometimes referred to as ‘Africa’s Green Gold’

rocksSome stone with other deposits of minerals in them, give a specific color, usually to one face of the rock. So the sculptor is able to fashion a two tone color in his piece. This can be a brown color from iron crystals or a greenish color from the likes of copper salts.

These are the most common varieties of stone used but there are many, many more.

The Great Dyke

Popular stone for carving are;

  • Verdite Various shades of  green in color but can have other colors mixed in
  • Serpentine Varied colors of green, brown and black
  • Springstone A hard reddish brown stone which polishes to a high shine
  • Lepidolite It’s Lithium content produces shades of pink to violet but it’s hard to work

Shona Ornamental Garden Sculpture

classical statueThe Ornamental Garden

Those of us that love our gardens, care for them and put in a lot of time and effort to make them look really good. But it’s a labor of love as no garden is ever truly finished and all gardens need constant maintenance.

But this is never a chore because we have a vision or some idea of what we’re trying to achieve and so we work but in a relaxing way. Time, sun and water will do the rest.

The real pleasure is helping nature to create beautiful natural environments. Great on the eye and a tonic for the human spirit.

garden gnomesGarden Sculpture

But I’d like to introduce you to something you might not have thought our before, sculpture. Our to be more specific garden sculpture.

Garden sculpture can add both amusement and even a sense of culture into the garden. How should you go about this, well there are no rules and it’s your garden, your domain. So you choose or change as the mood takes you.

In Europe, garden gnomes were popular, many years ago. These were small colorful dwarfs,a bit like Disney’s Snow White and the seven Dwarfs. Colorful, amusing, but not to everyone’s taste.

weathered statueToday, garden sculpture ranges from classical, as in Roman and Greek gods and human figures, through Chinese/Thai Buddhas, through to African animal and abstract sculptures.

The choice is in your hands. What we would recommend is sculptures that blend into the nature foliage of the garden. The more pastel colors. Natural stone, black and white. Bright colors compete for attention and you should aim at creating harmony.

One other great thing with natural sculptures in stone or metal is that as they age they weather. And as they do so they become more integrated and our view they look better too.

Nature has this wonderful way of integrating everything over time. We as gardeners just give her a helping hand. read more here

Sculpture in Zimbabwe

Map of Africa location of Zimbabwe


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.

Great Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe

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.