Shona Stone Sculpture originated in Zimbabwe and evidence shows the Shona tribes of Zimbabwe has been sculpting stone before the 11th century when the Great Zimbabwe settlement was built.
The Shona tribes sculpted stones mainly for decorational and building purposes. The art of sculpting stone was passed from generation to generation although it was a skill that was considered not profitable. Stone sculpture was pursued by those who really loved it because it did not have much monetary incentive.
Most shona stone sculptors use traditional tools to sculpt their stones thus making the art purely handwork. 1950 Frank McEwen opened the National Gallery of Rhodesia and provided a platform for Zimbabwean Sculptors to explore their talents. McEwan brought artists together through establishing an Art Workshop that featured many sculptors.
The Stone Sculptors used this platform to explore their talents which were being suppressed by lack of recognition.
Shona Stone Sculpture began to grab the World’s attention in 1963 when the works where exhibited at The Commonwealth Art Festival and 1969 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, international recognition and appreciation of Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture has been increasing since then.
The establishment of the National Gallery, Tengenenge Art Village by Tom Blomefield and Vukutu Sculpting Farm by Mary McFadden McEwan led to the rise of what is known in Art circles as the First Generation of Zimbabwean Stone Sculptors.
This first generation is made up of famed stone sculptors like Joram Mariga, Bernard Matemera, Sylvester Mubayi, Henry Mukarobgwa, Thomas Mukarobgwa, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Henry Munyaradzi, Joseph Ndandarika, Bernard Takawira among others.Most of the first generation sculptors passed through these sculpting communities.
The first generation of Stone sculptors passed down the skill to the second generation for whom Chapungu Art Village was established. Chapungu Village became instrumental is promoting Zimbabwean stone sculptors and produced Second Generation Sculptors like Dominic Benhura, Nesbert Mukomborenwa, Ignatius Zhuwakiyi, Tapfuma Gutsa, Elvis Mamvura, among others.
Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture is currently in the third generation and the sculptors are now sculpting modern contemporary sculptures.
The Sculpting of Stones in communities has continued and has seen the establishment of many Art Centre and Art Villages like The Chitungwiza Arts Centre, Tsindi Art Centre, Gutsameso Gallery, etc. The concept of art communities have helped artists to learn from each other and to share ideas and experiences.
Stone sculptors have over the years been using hard and soft stones found in Zimbabwe like, Springstone, Opal, Verdite, Serpentine, Soap Stone, among other stones. Other daring artists have even sculpted granite rocks. The forms of stone sculpture are abstract art, fine art, figurative art and creative art.
Stone Sculpture has become an integral part of the Zimbabwean culture and is fast becoming what soccer is to Brazil and what Reggae is to Jamaica. It has potential of becoming Zimbabwe’s top foreign currency earner.
The message of love, unity, peace is preached through stone sculpture. Many Zimbabwean Sculptors have become internationally acclaimed. Despite the international recognition of shona stone sculptures, there is little appreciation domestically and up to 90 percent of stone sculptures sculpted in Zimbabwe are sold out of the country.