San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Exhibits

Extraordinary one-of-a-kind stone sculptures by Zimbabwean Shona artists

Sculpture: Loving Kudu Family by Robert Kwechete The largest exhibition of its kind ever staged in the Western United States, October 11 through 26, 1997, "Spirits in Stone" features more than 2,000 pieces that will be on display and available for purchase. The exhibition changes daily as pieces are sold. World-renowned Shona artist Kennedy Musekiwa will sculpt several pieces on-site during the exhibition.

The majority of sculptures range in price from $30 to $20,000, with some larger pieces from well-known artists priced at up to $30,000. Fifty percent of the proceeds will benefit the San Diego Natural History Museum, particularly education and research programs, and 10% of net proceeds will benefit the Elementary Institute of Science. The exhibition is sponsored in memory of Kathleen Allen Raffee.

Called "perhaps the most important art form to emerge from Africa in this century" by Newsweek, noted collectors of Shona art include Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Sofia of Spain, Lou Rawls, Jimmy Stewart, Cecily Tyson, Harry Belafonte, the Prince of Wales, the Rockefeller Family, Danny Glover, and some of the world's leading museums.

Shona sculpture is part of permanent collections of the Rodin Museum, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Mankind, London; National Gallery of Zimbabwe; and the Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt. Sculpture: Grandmother Shifting Grain by Kennedy Musekiwa

Although the Shona have not been exposed to western culture, much of the work of Shona sculptors resembles 20th century contemporary art. Pablo Picasso, founder of the modernist movement, was an early admirer of Shona sculpture.

"We bring Shona art to the San Diego community because many of us at the Museum have been touched by it," said Museum Executive Director, Dr. Michael Hager." The natural stones, combined with the powerful, instinctive artistry of the Shona people, make it an inspiring blend of art and nature."

This will be the fourth time the Museum has brought "Shona: Spirits in Stone" exhibition and sale to San Diego. It is the Museum's most successful fundraiser, supporting its mission as an education and research institution.

"This exhibition is unique because the curators encourage you to please touch the art. This is art that is affordable and collectable. It is art you live with, not just look at," said Dr. Hager.

The Shona people have been thriving in Southeastern Africa for more than 1,000 years, and have been sculpting for almost that long. They are mostly self-taught artists who carve their works from brilliant white granites and rich serpentines in reds, greens, maroons, greys, yellows and orange. The most common carving material is serpentine, but verdite, also known as Africa's "Green Gold" is particularly prized by some artists for its rich, deep emerald color, swirling striations and hardness rivaling that of rubies.

After quarrying the raw stone with a pickaxe and pry bar, carvers use simple and handmade tools to "release" the spirit trapped in the stone. Shona artists do not plan or pre-draw their sculptures. Instead, the image is inspired by the stone itself or the ancestral spirits. "The sculpture is already hidden in the stone, I just let it out," says Henry Munyardzi, an internationally acclaimed sculptor. The art is primarily based on animal, mythical and spiritual themes intrinsic to Shona life and mythology.

Of the more than 12 million Shona people today, about 1000 are sculptors. Though traditionally the sculptors have been men, in the last few years many women have began carving. Their work will be an important part of this exhibition.

"Loving Kudu Family" by Robert Kwechete is one of many sculpted animal images in the exhibition.
"Grandmother Shifting Grain" by Kennedy Musekiwa honors the ancestors of the Shona, Zimbabwe's largest tribe.
Credit: Zimbabwe Shona Sculpture

Shona Stone Scullpture logo

About the Shona | About the Stone | About the Artist | Exhibits