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HISTORY OF SHONA ART

The Shona of Zimbabwe have always worked and lived with stone. Rock outcroppings and rocky terrain feature the land. While there are examples of Shona sculpture such as the 6-foot soapstone birds found at the Great Zimbabwe that date back nearly a thousand years, Shona Sculpture is really a contemporary art form that was reborn in the late 1950's and 1960's. Shona Sculpture’ was officially discovered and documented by Frank McEwen. It was during the 1950’s when the great demand for ‘Shona Sculpture’ begun. In 1957, McEwen became the first director of the National Gallery, which exhibits many of the stone masterpieces that come from Zimbabwe.

Evolving from handfuls of individuals to the many who sculpt stone exclusively today did not happen overnight. There were no formal schools for stone sculpture. An informal master/apprentice system gradually took hold. Family connections heavily influenced decisions to sculpt. Major international exhibitions of Shona sculpture starting being held in the 1970's, and today Shona sculpture is recognised on the world stage.

Several years ago, a prominent London art critic remarked that "5 out of the 10 best stone sculptors in the world were from Zimbabwe” (Daily Telegraph, London). Even Pablo Picasso discovered Shona stone art back in the 1960's and displayed this art in a Paris expo, where the unique style and originality of SHONA art was seen by thousands of appreciative art lovers.

The majority of first generation artists that brought Shona sculpture to the world's attention are mostly deceased now. Second and third generation artists eagerly fill their void. As the movement has grown, so have its influences.

Some of Shona artists were the pioneers of the rebirth of Shona sculpture from the 1960's and 70's. Some are newer artists whose vision and creativity has given them fame and popularity and a unique vision and signature in stone that helps define what Shona sculpture is today.

Our artists represent Shona Sculpture at its best.