The career of Joram Mariga is inextricably linked with the beginning of Zimbabwean stone sculpture movement.
Born of artistic parents in 1927, Mariga used to watch his father and brother carve wood, and his mother make open-fired ceramics. Experimenting with wood carving at first, he moved onto soft stones such as Steatite, but later discovered colourful, harder stones with which to work and became committed to this new material. Others, on seeing his work, asked to be taught the skill and his influence gradually spread.
It was essential to Mariga in the early days, to return to close contact with Shona customs and the significance of the natural world.
His knowledge of the early days ensures that he remains a powerful example to artists today, amongst whom he is regarded with affection and respect, being referred to as the Father of Zimbabwe Sculpture.
McEwan stated ‘The sculptural expansion developed in only 34 years. To give a true example, among others arriving from different parts of the country came Joram Mariga. He was not the first to come to the workshop, but one of the best…He brought me a little milk jug carved in soft stone. I realised this was an English milk jug for an Englishman who loved his tea! I asked if he could make a head. The head came, made also for an Englishman, in the style of airport art as acquired by tourists. “If you made a figure for your own family or your ancestors?” I asked. “Oh, that would be different.” The figure came, this time of pure African concept – the enlarged head, seat of the spirit, a frontal static pose, a visage staring into eternity with formally posed arms and clenched fists. It was pre-Columbian in nature, as if a spirit image applied to stone could create similar results in spite of a difference of race, place and time.”
Joram died in December 2000 aged 73 years old after a car accident.