Often referred to as Shona Sculptures, our Zimbabwean Stone Sculptures are on consignment from Germany's Hans Huebert, an art appreciator and long-time collector (since 1972) of these gorgeous fine art pieces. This collection, housed at downtown Chicago's Nicole Gallery until the gallery closed in August 2011, is our newest addition to Graber Designs Gallery.
Since Zimbabwe's independence in the 1980, the stone art originating there has become world renowned, described by Newsweek as "the most important new art form to emerge from Africa in this century."
Zimbabwe literally means "house of stone," and the country is blessed with a large variety and great supply of beautiful stones. Shona sculptors show great skill in their selection of the most aesthetically pleasing stones in terms of color, form, and grain, and then they search with their inner eye until the stone reveals to them the image needing to be set free. The most commonly used material -- as well as the hardest -- is serpentine, which formed about 2.6 billion years ago in the Great Dyke of Zimbabwe, which forms a backbone for almost 300 miles through the heart of the country.
English artist and curator Frank McEwen was a significant player in exposing Zimbabwean artists to the larger world. Having lived in Paris for several years, McEwen was a close friend of several of the famous artists of mid-20th-century Europe, including Matisse, Picasso, Brancussi, Brauque, and others. McEwen was convinced that hidden in Africa, waiting to be unearthed, must lie a creative primal energy. As director of the Rhodes National Gallery in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), he encouraged young Zimbabweans to sculpt in the bowels of the gallery, providing them with stone and tools and setting them free to create.
By the time McEwen left Rhodesia in 1973, he had brought Shona sculpture to the attention of the art circles of London and New York. A great exhibition of Shona sculptures in Paris, at the Musee Rodin in 1971, did much to validate Shona stone art and prove McEwen's assumption about the great potential of African art. All sculptures at the 1971 exhibition in Paris were eagerly bought by art collectors.
Finishing a good sculpture can take weeks or months. Depending on its hardness, shape, and structure, the stone is progressively worked on with an array of chisels of decreasing sizes, charring hammers, and files. Eventually, the parts of the surface to be highlighted are smoothed in gradual steps, with a sandpaper of diminishing coarseness starting with 30 grain and up to 1200 grain. The sanding process alone takes several days. Then the entire stone is heated up, either by piling flaming wood around it or by using a gas flamer. The heating process opens up the stone's pores so the artist can carefully apply transparent bee's wax on the areas to be highlighted, bringing out the color and shine of the stone.
Among our Shona artists is Kennedy Musekiwa, one of the best known Shona sculptors. Born in May 1962, Musekiwa was inspired by his teachers Victor Mtongwizo and Joseph Ndandarika. Musekiwa's sculptures are admired and collected in Europe, South Africa, Botswana, and Canada. In the U.S., his work has been exhibited in museums in Los Angeles and San Diego.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the continent of Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique to the east.