In about 1250, stone structures began to be constructed at Great Zimbabwe, comprising drystone walls forming enclosures, platforms to support huts and a massive enclosure containing a conical tower. Great Zimbabwe was the capital of the rulers of a society that drew its wealth from both cattle-keeping and trading with the coastal states of East Africa.
Soapstone bird carvings were found on walls and monoliths of the ancient city of ‘Great Zimbabwe’.
Although these soapstone birds were discovered at ‘Great Zimbabwe’ approximately 760 years ago, stone carving appeared to have perished with the great kingdom of Monomutapa i.e. it was not a tradition that was continued and prospered or found in other ruins/peoples homes from this era.
Nonetheless, the stone-carved Zimbabwe Bird is a national emblem of Zimbabwe, appearing on the national flag and when they were in use, the Zimbabwean Dollar.
It is said to represent the Bateleur eagle…
There are 2 main tribes in Zimbabwe – the Shona & the Ndeble. The population in Zimbabwe is 12.5 million – however 13 million people speak Shona dialects.
Many sulptors’ families originate from various other neighbouring countries – originally seeking work in Zimbabwe in more prosperous times. Many of the sculptors’ names originate from Mozambique and Malawi, which can be depicted by their family name i.e. Akuda, Sephani, Supini, Vissensio.
ZimSculpt prefer not to pigeonhole the entire art form as ‘Shona’ and rather as ‘Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture’, as it is in Zimbabwe where the art form has flourished – perhaps because of the accessibility to the raw materials.