The word "Zimbabwe" is derived from Dzimba-dza-mabwe, translated from the Shona language as "large houses of stone". And indeed, the ancient ruins of the city of Great Zimbabwe from the 13th century exhibit extraordinary craftsmanship in stone: spiraling streets, royal palaces, high defensive walls built without mortar and decorative sculpture with its predominant motif of the "Zimbabwe Bird". Today, the tradition of stone and wood sculptures remains, and most visitors wish they could take home the expressive (and very heavy) stone sculptures.
Shona sculpture from Zimbabwe is contemporary stone sculpture movement, often described as an art renaissance, an art phenomenon and a miracle. Critics and collectors could not understand how an art genre had developed with such vigor, spontaneity and originality. Since Zimbabwe regained independence in 1980, the sculpture has been exhibited in the art capitals of the world to great acclaim. In spite of the increasing demand, little commercialization has occurred, and the most dedicated of artists display a high degree of integrity, never copying and working entirely by hand, with spontaneity and a confidence in their skills, unrestricted by tedious drawings or measuring.
The sculpture speaks of fundamental human experiences - grief, happiness, anxiety and spiritual search - and has always managed to communicate these in a profoundly simple and direct way that is both rare and extremely refreshing. The artist 'works' together with his stone and it is believed that 'nothing which exists naturally is inanimate'- it has a spirit and life of its own. The sculptures are done in a magnificent range of stones: hard black springstone, richly colored serpentine and steatites, firm grey limestone and semi-precious Verdite and Lepidolite.