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.
The 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’
Some 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.
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