Stone sculpturing in Zimbabwe is one of the oldest forms of artistic expression. It is also referred to as Shona stone sculpturing. This is so because one of the oldest notable forms of artworks is the stone-carved Zimbabwe Bird. The stone carving is the national emblem of Zimbabwe, appearing on the national flag and coat of arms of both Zimbabwe and Rhodesia. The Zimbabwe bird is also found on banknotes and coins (first on Rhodesian pound and then Rhodesian dollar). It is believed to represents the eagle also known as Hungwe in the shona language.
The original carved birds are from the Great Dzimbadzemabwe also known as the Great Zimbabwe ruins built by ancestors of the Shona people in the 11th century and continuing for over 300 years. Present day Zimbabwe derives its name from the Dzimbadzemabwe ruins. Dzimbabwe means “House of stone”. The ruins, after which modern Zimbabwe was named, cover some 1,800 acres (7.3 km2) and are the largest ancient stone construction in Zimbabwe. Among its notable elements are the soapstone bird sculptures, about 16 inches tall and standing on columns more than a yard tall, were installed on walls and monoliths of the ancient city of Great Zimbabwe. They are believed to have been a sign of the royal presence.
After the ruins of Great Zimbabwe were discovered by European colonists in the late nineteenth century, they took five of the carved birds to the Cape Colony. A German missionary came to own the pedestal of one bird, which he sold to the Ethnological Museum in Berlin in 1907. In 1981, a year after the attainment of independence in Zimbabwe, the South African government returned four of the statues to the country; the fifth is held at Groote Schuur, Rhodes’ former home in Cape Town. In 2003, the German museum returned the portion of bird’s pedestal to Zimbabwe.
In modern day Zimbabwe however, stone sculpturing is not restricted to the Shona people. There is a migration from traditional stone carving to contemporary/modern sculpturing which is an expression by the artist and used to decorate homes, offices, gardens, hotels and restaurants. Stone sculptures add a contemporary afro-centric beautiful and feel in spaces. Stone sculptures from Zimbabwe are internationally renowned and are a great investment to properties and open spaces.