News / Shona Sculpture
I feel like a treasure hunter.
For the most part, I buy things that catch my interest and capture my imagination and I assume they will do the same for others. Sometimes they do. Not always though. My end goal is to purchase items I'll be able to sell and it seems I have the most success buying and selling what I like.
My approach is probably a little unorthodox but I buy what I can afford, what I like, and what looks a bit different. Usually in that order. The treasure hunter part comes in when I get my purchase home and do some research into what it is and where it came from.
The computer geek in me gets an enormous sense of satisfaction from solving the puzzle of what something actually is, where it originated, how old it is and what the value might be. The history buff in me is thrilled to discover a bit about the history of a specific piece, what it may originally have been used for, and a bit about the time and place it was produced in.
A few months back, I bought a sculpture from an online estate sale. There were only a few photos of the piece and they were not the best quality. The description of the piece was very vague, simply stating 'Stone Sculpture - Heavy' and the dimensions were incorrect. Something about this piece captured my imagination, in spite of the lack of detailed, quality photos. Very few people seemed to be interested, and I had the winning bid. It was fairly challenging picking it up and getting it home as I was very surprised to discover it was much larger and heavier than described in the listing. It weighs 137 pounds, to be exact. It was also much more beautiful than was evident in the listing!
The size and weight made it difficult to research and I was told, after sending photos to a few people for appraisal purposes, that likely its highest value was in my own appreciation of the sculpture. A kind way to say that it has no real value, I think. I was intrigued though and wanted to know more about the sculptor and where it came from. So, I did my own research and after many, many hours of searching, I've discovered the origins of the piece that makes me smile every time I walk past it.
It's a lovely example of Zimbabwe Shona sculpture, so named because they are created by the Shona of Zimbabwe. The Shona people have been hand sculpting stone into works of art for nearly a thousand years. The name Zimbabwe is derived from the Shona word which means 'house of stone'.
Even more exciting to me, was learning that the piece I wrestled to get into my house and struggled to research, was created by the one and only, Colleen Madamombe. Ms. Madamombe, who died in 2009, was one of only a handful of women sculptors in Zimbabwe, and often considered among the very best. Her sculptures are said to highlight the special qualities of Shona women, as well as to communicate the inequities that affect their lives and status.
The feminist in me is a bit in awe that one of her sculptures is at this moment, in my living room. How cool is that? Most certainly a treasure found!