By Kumbirai Tarusarira
In recent decades Zimbabwe has become globally recognised for its arts and sculpture and it is one of the African countries that stands firm in appreciating its culture.
Shona sculpture has become world famous, having first emerged in the 1940s.
The most common subjects of carved figures include stylised birds and human figures. They are made with sedimentary rocks such as soapstone, as well as harder igneous rocks such as serpentine and also rare stones such as verdite and gemstone.
Some of these Zimbabwean artefacts can be found in far afield countries like the United States, Germany, Netherlands, China and Canada.
One of the most renowned Zimbabwean artists Dominic Benhura’s statues can be seen in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Shona sculpture, in essence, has been a combination of African traditional stories with European influences.
World renowned Zimbabwean sculptors include Nicholas, Nesbert and Anderson Mukomberanwa, Tapfuma Gutsa, Henry Munyaradzi and Locardia Ndandarika.
Internationally, Zimbabwean sculptors have managed to inspire a new generation of artists inviting foreign citizens to apply with apprenticeships with master sculptors in the country.
Present-day artists like New York sculptor M. Scott Johnson and California sculptor Russel Albans have learned to fuse both African and Afro-diasporic aesthetics in a way that travels beyond the basic imitation of African Art by some African-American artists of past generations in the United States.
Craft work has continued to make a meaningful contribution towards
job creation and foreign currency earnings.
A research commissioned by the Zimbabwe Applied Arts and Crafts Association reads, “the sector’s contribution to household incomes ranges from US$500 to US$15 000 per annum depending on a number of variables such as, the type of art, cost of raw materials, volumes of pieces sold among others.”
According to a Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (ZimStat) report, “Zimbabwe’s exports of original sculptures and statuary products averaged just above US$2,5 million between 2012 and 2015.”
And according to Trade Map: “World imports were over US$4,7 billion in 2015, having steadily grown from US$3 billion, registered in 2012. The export figures for Zimbabwe are probably not reflective of the true value of the products.
It is likely that a lot more products are being exported informally by traders and tourists hence they are not being recorded. Furthermore, many artists and sculptors could be selling at very low prices as they might not be very conversant with the international market value and trends.”
“The major buying markets of Zimbabwe’s arts are South Africa and developed markets such as the EU, USA and Japan.
“These markets offer duty free access to products traded under preferential arrangements such as the SADC Trade Protocol, the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) and the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).”
Zimbabwe could benefit from exporting its unique Shona Stone Sculptures, one of the most important art forms to emerge from Africa.
Shona stone sculpture is highly valued and appreciated beyond the Zimbabwean borders.
Due to its quality and superior aesthetics, the product has appealed to gallery owners, art collectors, exhibitors, parks and house decorators as well as tourists.