Early 20th Cen Shona Head Rest. Origin: Zimbabwe. Specifications: 16 x 20 x 6 cm Medium: Timber Carving & Pigment.
The Shona tribe is Zimbabwe's largest indigenous group, their tribal language is also called Shona (Bantu) and their population is around 9 million. They are found in Zimbabwe, Botswana and southern Mozambique in Southern Africa and bordering South Africa. Representing over 80% of the population, the Shona tribe is culturally the most dominate tribe in Zimbabwe. There are five main Shona language groups: Korekore, Zeseru, Manyika, Ndau, and Karanga. The Ndebele largely absorbed the last of these groups when they moved into western Zimbabwe in the 1830s.
Shona people live in isolated settlements, usually consisting of one or more elder men and their extended families. Most decisions are made within the family, although organized political states were recognized as a source of centralized power. A principal chief who inherited his position and power in the same divine manner as a king headed them. He usually lived in a centralized location and was complemented by his court that advised him about most important decisions. The head chief often received substantial payment in the form of tributes from his constituency.
The Shona believe in two types of spirits. Shave spirits are most often considered to be outside or wandering spirits and vadzimu are ancestor spirits. Shave spirits are connected to populations living outside of Shona territory and may be connected to neighboring people. These spirits may be either malevolent or benevolent. Bad spirits are associated with witchcraft, while good spirits may inspire individual talents associated with healing, music, or artistic ability. Vadzimu represent all that is ideal and moral about a Shona way of life. They are usually associated with recent ancestors or with more remote culture heroes whose exact genealogy has been forgotten. They serve to protect society, but may withdraw this protection if the Shona moral ideals are not respected.
It was in the late 19th century that the peoples of this area speaking several mutually intelligible languages were united under the Shona name. Although known for their stone sculpture, the Shona Tribe of Zimbabwe has a rich artistic heritage, which includes decorative fabric painting using sadza too. Sadza (pronounced sudza) is Maize, a primary basis of their diet. Maize (corn) is ground into a fine meal, which is then cooked with water until it is the consistency of mashed potato. Although eaten plain, sadza is often served with a vegetable or meat sauce to give it flavor. This painting technique uses the sadza instead of wax as a masking between the different paint colors. After painting, the canvas is left to dry in the sun. Finally, the fabric is washed to remove the sadza leaving it with a unique finished appearance. Designs often use traditional geometric patterns mixed with stylized objects from everyday Shona life.
Shona artists are well known for their stone sculptures and are typically called "Shona" sculptures because it is the name of the tribe in Zimbabwe that has traditionally created these works of art. The stone carving has been part of the Zimbabwean culture since 1200 AD when Great Zimbabwe, an archeological masterpiece of their early ancestors, was built.
The re-emergence of this stone carving tradition in the 1950s, the solid forms and beautiful surfaces of Shona sculpture express an extraordinary emotional power". Today the art form commands worldwide recognition with the world's most talented carvers being recognized in Zimbabwe Shona art
The Shona sculptures are produced from a variety of stones. Serpentine stone, with its considerable range of colors and hardness, is the material most commonly used by the sculptors. Most serpentine stone used was formed over 2.6 billion years ago. Serpentine stone exists in a diversity of colors including black (the hardest and least common), browns, mauves, greens, and yellows. Sometimes sculptures are also made semi-precious stones like "Leopard Rock" and Verdite.
Drawing on ancient sculpting traditions they have produced a modern art movement of dignified, exquisite works. Reminiscent of Picasso and Henry Moore, these extraordinary, intense works speak to all humanity.