The objective of this paper is to provide guidance regarding the contents of stone sculptor training in Zimbabwe.
On the one hand, it is intended as a guide for the training master (M.). Before, during and after training, the Master can find content-related orientation and answers to the following questions here:
- What knowledge and skills should I provide to my students?
- What are the key points of the training?
- What is important in theory/practice?
The same applies to the apprentice (A.):
- What is important for me as a student of stone sculpture in Zimbabwe?
- What parts of my professional field have I already learned and what is still lacking?
- What is necessary in terms of theory/practice?
The M. and A. can find answers to these questions in the Guide. These answers can then be implemented, in the best case scenario, in a schedule.
The name “Zimbabwe” means “House of Stone”. It is named after the Great Zimbabwe monuments, a town built by the Rozvi people out of small blocks of granite stone. This structure is one of the best man made monuments in Africa. The town itself is a great example of skilled stone working. Six stone birds made by the Shona speaking Gumanye people were found in the Eastern enclosure. The whole town was built in the late Iron Age, around the 11th century a.d., and lasted until the 15th century.
The stone sculptor in Zimbabwe is part of the world famous tradition of Shona artists. Inspired by Tom Blomefield in the 1960s, a very large number of artists who are active in sculpture continue to be found in the centre in Tengenenge as well as in many other areas of Zimbabwe. This sculpture-oriented culture is unique in Africa, and is appreciated and in demand throughout the world.
Well-known artists of the first generation include Henry Munyaradzi, Bernard Matemera, Edward Chiwawa and Nicholas Mukomberanwa. The second generation primarily includes the sons of Henry Munyaradzi, Mike M., and Nicholas Mukomberanwa, Lawrence M.
The main female sculptor of this second generation is Colleen Madamombe, who was part of the group of artists in the Munyaradzi school.
Typical of the local sculpture of that area are primarily works in black gray spring stone and in numerous other local rock types, which are in some cases very colourful.
Representations include human heads, people, animals, partly naturalistic, partly denaturised, and abstract shapes. The unique design language of Shona sculpture is not comparable with Western or Far Eastern sculpting culture.
The sculptors of Zimbabwe often associate themselves with centers in which they work.These centers provide independent artists with a place to work as well as a presentation space for their exhibits.
The districts of the individual sculptors are separated in the process. Everybody works for himself. His activity is generally free and less based upon contracts or orders. In the Shona tradition, the sculptors have developed different styles and individual orientations.
Mostly, pieces of rock and local rock types are used. These are closely inspected in order to then plan the design. The development of a sculpture therefore usually results from the stone and not from a design model or a purely conceptual idea.
As a result, natural rock surfaces are frequently combined with shaped ones. In this way, the impression of an object which already exists in the stone from the beginning sometimes develops.
The economic situation of the sculptor also usually does not allow carved stones of certain dimensions to be ordered and purchased from the quarry.
In the course of training as a sculptor, a wealth of skills and knowledge has to be acquired in order to be able to survive technically, artistically and economically along with one’s colleagues today and, especially, in the future.
Basically, an A. first has to learn the requirements of professional life in general (perseverance, motivation, reliability, order, etc.). This is true for any professional activity, including for sculpture.
Technically, the apprentice should be able to identify stones from Zimbabwe based upon their aesthetics and usability. He should be able to work with then as a sculptor using artisanal and mechanical tools.
Artistically, the Shona tradition, along with its key representatives and styles, should be familiar to the A., as should the principles of design. A sense of form should become second nature both theoretically as well as
The trained sculptor should be economical in his operation. He should also have developed an idea of how economically meaningful sculpture in Zimbabwe is possible for him considering his respective abilities.
Finally, the trained sculptor should then find and claim his place in the country’s art scene. His work should be able to coexist with those of his colleagues and, moreover, have its own style in terms of perspective. This requires specific skills and knowledge.
The A. is committed for the duration of his training to be active with and for his M. During this time, he should learn to fulfill this duty daily, even if difficult and unpleasant times occur.
The A. should meticulously learn through dealing with stones and tools. Natural stones and expensive tools are prerequisites which are difficult to acquire for sculptural work, and they earn suitable appreciation.
The craftsmanship and artistic work also require order. This applies to the workplace, stones, tools, machines, as well as the approaches to design and implementation.
In addition, the A. should learn to observe, develop and implement all of the forms of creativity that lie within him.
3.2 Creating a sculpture
For the best results the A. should try to start working on shapes of things he is interested in. Thus he can create a pleasant environment for himself and the mood will help him produce the best sculptures.
3.2.1 Preperatory work
The A. should develop an idea of the possibilities which are available to him according to the resources he has available. This applies to stone as a medium as well as in technical and artistic terms.
220.127.116.11 Mining a stone
At the beginning of a project an A. has to learn how to mine the stone. Due to different circumstances about 50% of the sculptors live in rural areas where they have to mine the stones by themselves. Not until 30 years ago a few registered mines started to supply stones to the sculptors. However, about 90% of these mines have no machines so the stone is mined manually and slowly. Sometimes the stones needed are not available. The mining skills should help the sculptor to mine a stone by himself when he needs it.
18.104.22.168 Basic tool making and improvising
At the moment there are more than 1500 sculptors in Zimbabwe. There is no shop that sales the tools a sculptor needs, so he has to learn to make and improvise the tools by himself, e.g.:
- brick hammer used by the builders,
- steel puncher also used by builders,
- iron files for sharpening steel,
- wood chisels for soft stones
3.2.2 Developing an idea
The A. should learn how to develop an idea for a work of art which is to be made.
The starting point may be a certain stone, his own idea, or an existing object (a drawing or model). He should have a free spirit to grab any inspiration from nature, technology, culture, weather or stories. Almost anything can give an inspiration to the artist depending on the mood and interests. The best sculptures arise out of a free spirit.
3.2.3 Verifying the feasibility
The A. should learn to assess whether a theoretical idea can be implemented in stone and that this is dependent on the available stones, the tools as well as the respective abilities (stone as a material, in contrast to wood, paint, etc.).
3.2.4 Choice of stone
Stones can be very different in terms of their materiality. The Artist should also keep in mind that some kinds of stone cannot stand the weather conditions in other regions of the world. So he has to consider whether the sculpture would be placed indoors or outdoors. For example, some softer opal cannot stand outdoors for long in Europe. The following distinctions, among others, can be made:
hard | soft
course | fine
dense | porous
colourful | monochrome
grainy | homogenous
unique | generic
textured surfaces | mooth surface
natural | processed
polishable/shiny | not polishable/matt
The A. should become familiar with these characteristics and learn to assess them in terms of their technical and artisanal dimensions as well as their impact on design. There is an intrinsic connection between the idea and the choice of stone. The A. should be able to sense
this and to justify it creatively.
The A. should be able to implement ideas in stone from a technical and artisanal perspective. This requires practice in stone processing and intensive knowledge of the stone materiality.
He has to know and master every single tool (various hammers, irons, grinding tools, etc.) as well as their respective possibilities for application.
He has to know and be able to technically master stone in its materiality. The same applies for the machinery that is used.
The sculptor approaches the sculpture from the outside and works from rough to fine. First, coarse structures have to be created, to then be gradually refined. The A. should learn, practice and internalise this approach.
Good artistic work essentially includes appropriate presentation. This applies in technical (stability), artistic and economic respects.
The A. should learn to present his finished objects such that they can be shown confidently and appealingly to the interested viewer.
The catchwords for presentation techniques are: Place of presentation, environment, single object/series of objects, backgrounds, inscription, artist name, date, group exhibition/solo exhibition
What is also ultimately decisive for the future of sculpture is the issue of marketing. Only if existing artistic sales channels can be maintained and new ones can be developed will new, young sculptors be able to endure.
Questions to be discussed in this context would include:
- Who buys the art of the current master or other sculptors?
- Who could be considered as another group of buyers?
- How can I develop such new markets?
- How do I get in touch with gallery owners?
- How can I introduce and present myself to gallery owners?
- Individual or group exhibition?
- What ways exist to draw attention to oneself (exhibits, speeches, photos, flyers, the Internet, etc.)?
- Where could my objects best be placed and presented?
- Will my sculptures be welcome or could occur cultural problems, e.g. by nude torsos?
3.3 Art history and artistic classification
Knowledge of tradition and the work of other sculptors throughout the world is an essential basis for one’s own development. By becoming familiar with other artistic directions, a sculptor can find his own direction for his work and head into new dimensions. This is especially important for emerging sculptors as well as for the future of the sculpture of Zimbabwe.
3.3.1 Tradition of the sculptor in Zimbabwe
Each school of sculpture is subject to a particular tradition. The A. should learn and be able to classify the foundation and roots of sculpture in Zimbabwe, particularly the Shona tradition.
He should be able to identify the different artistic centres of Zimbabwe as well as the art movements represented there and their primary artists.
In addition, he should be able to describe and classify his own master in the context of the local art scene.
3.3.2 Art in Africa
The A. should be taught, as far as possible, to have an impression of other artistic activities (painting, wood sculpture, etc.) in Africa (e.g. Tanzania, South Africa, North Africa).
3.3.3 Western, Eastern sculpture
European and Far Eastern sculpture has a millennia-old tradition. It would be desirable for the A. to develop an idea of what others cultures have created sculpturally throughout history, as well as what is being done in this field today.
While technical skill is a prerequisite for sculptural activity, the artistic and creative force of the sculptor is the source of its actual quality.
Only expressiveness, the relating of design elements, and the artistic idea elevate an object to the point of being art. For this reason, the subject “design” must be anchored in the centre of the sculptor’s training.
3.4.1 Drawing and painting
The A. should be required to draw and paint. In doing so, besides sketches, objects of daily life (landscapes, architecture, nude drawing, portraits, and still lifes) should be drawn and painted.
The leap from painting to sculpting forms the relief. A distinction is made between low and high relief.
The A. should have created various reliefs for practice and as objects.
3.4.3 Sculpture in the round
The sculptors of Zimbabwe almost exclusively create three-dimensional objects. For this reason, this should be the main focus of the training.
The A. should learn that three-dimensional objects always have to be worked on from a circumferential perspective. Nevertheless, there is usually a main display side.
The A. should be able to distinguish between top, horizontal and bottom views.
3.4.4 Design criteria
Art and design are in no way arbitrary. The reason why an object has been well or poorly created can always be justified. The A. should become familiar with design criteria and know how to apply them, with the help of which he can objectively explain why an object has been created in one way or another.
In addition to the idea, influences on design include:
Essentially, it is these four parameters which determine the aesthetics of an object.
The A. should be aware of them, as well as be able to implement them artistically. He should learn that through his choice of shape, colour, surface and selection (of stone), he strengthens or weakens his idea. The goal is the interrelating of these four factors. Thus, according to the sculptor’s wishes, harmony or tension arises.
An important means of artistic design is the use of symbols. This involves characters which represent a particular expression.
Moreover, there are archetypal symbols known in common to all people from time immemorial. The A. should be familiar with and able to use such symbols of Zimbabwe (Africa) as well as archetypal symbols.
3.4.6 Font design
The A. should be familiar with different fonts, as well as be able to draw them and apply them in stone.
3.5.1 Genres of stone
The A. should be familiar with and able to identify the various rock genres, including their historical development. Furthermore, he should be able to identify, for example, types of stone from the respective genre.
Plutonic rocks, e.g. granite
Metamorphic rocks, e.g. marble, quartzite, serpentinite
Igneous rocks, e.g. basalt
Sedimentary rocks, e.g. sandstone, limestone
The rock genres are very different in their texture, appearance and ability to be worked. The A. should be aware of these differences.
3.5.2 Stone of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe has a large number of different types of stone, such as:
Springstone | Lemon Opal
White Opal | Vidite
Lapido Lite | Cobold
Serpentine | Sobestone
After completing his training, the A. should be familiar with these types of stone. He should have already worked with some of them frequently. He should have an idea of the sizes and shapes in which the respective stones are available, how to work with them and in what way they are suitable from a technical and artistic perspective.
3.6 Processing techniques
According to type and objective, stones can be split, carved, incised, spalted, pointed, honed, polished, etc. The A. should have learned and practiced these techniques.
He should be able to immediately assign the appropriate tool to the respective technique and implement this professionally. He should be aware of the various types of stone in which he can implement the respective surface technique. This applies to both manual as well as mechanical work.
In addition, he should have a clear idea as to the expression which the respective surface technique supports (for example: natural, rustic, stylish, elegant, harmonic, dynamic, soft, hard, dark, bright, matt or colorful).
3.7 Knowledge of tools
The A. should be familiar with all the tools and machines which are used in his profession, along with being able to identify and use them. He should also be able to assess their possible use.
Moreover, the care and maintenance of technical auxiliary materials should be familiar to him.
3.8 Auxiliary materials
The A. should be familiar with technical auxiliary materials, such as adhesives, abrasive materials and abrasive tools. He should be able to use them properly and know about their effect.
He should also be informed, though, about negative issues concerning auxiliary materials (health hazards during usage, working time and limitation of polishing agents, etc.)
3.9 Safety and health protection
In addition to the auxiliary materials, the stone can be a health hazard, as well. This particularly applies to the development of dust during the working process. The A. should be aware of this danger and learn to use auxiliary equipment, such as dust masks, when working.
The use of machines often leads to high noise levels which, over the long term, can cause permanent hearing damage. For this reason, ear protection is to be worn.
When using auxiliary materials, the A. should learn to always read the respective instructions in advance, as well as to comply with these instructions during his work. The A. should be aware of the required use of gloves, dust masks, safety shoes, helmets
and durable clothing.
For every sculpture the A. should make a secure base that can hold the weight of the stone to avoid damaging people or the property.
3.10 Environmental protection
Auxiliary materials for stone processing can be particular damaging for the environment.
The A. should be informed respectively, be familiar with disposal options, and, of course, incorporate these in his daily work.