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Stone Sculpture of Zimbabwe


The sculpture of Zimbabwe derives from divergent sources. Contemporary sculpture from Zimbabwe, which has achieved such recognition in Europe, America, and Australia, has a complex history. The ancient traditions often represented birds and other animal life. Then came the carvings in soapstone and other soft materials available at least since the 1950s, usually for sale to tourists. Attitudes amongst the Zimbabwean sculptors are perhaps different from artists of Western cultures. Indefinitely, the art stood as a vital way in which to express old beliefs and truths in an ever-changing society. At the same time, the life of a sculptor is seen often as a successful and much sought after way of earning a living at a time of national economic hardship. But here lie the areas of strength in this remarkable work, which perhaps help to establish the reason for its success in communicating directly to a varied and demanding international public. The human form is dominant within these works; they reveal a strong seductive quality. The materials offer a show of an impressive variety of soft and hard colored stones. Zimbabwe is rich in mineral resources. The most commonly used stone is serpentine; a group of hard silicate minerals with colors from olive-green through yellow and brown to black. The outside of the stone is often weathered to brown or reddish brown. Different varieties are characterized by color and hardness and referred to by different names. The stone described as Serpentine is a rich combination of brown and black while Springstone is a pure black, with occasional flecks and veins of white.