The Shona are Zimbabwe’s largest ethnic group. Traditionally they lived in settlements consisting of a few families. They live in Zimbabwe where they make up about 80% of the population. They have lived in the area since probably 600 A.D.
The Shona as a people group have always been admired for their art. Artists are greatly respected among the Shona and there are more paid artists then in most other people groups. The Shona have produced some of the worlds most amazing art pieces and their artistic forms have been cited in numerous publications such as Newsweek and others as some of the most important art forms to emerge from Africa during the 20th century. Picasso respected and was very influenced by Shona art work.
Something that really sets the Shona work apart is that it is made in every place where the Shona live; it is not limited by geographic or even social boundaries. To make their famous stone sculptures the Shona first chisel out stone from a quarry, carve it into a figure which releases the spirit of the stones, polish the sculpture with beeswax and sand, then heat the sculpture which brings out the many different colors in the stone. The Queen of England, the Rockefellers and the New York Museum of Modern art also all owned art products made by the Shona.
The Shona believe that spirits inhabit everything. When an artist obtains a piece of wood or stone he does not trace what he wants to carve on the stone, instead by looking at the shape of the stone and figuring out what the stone wants to communicate he will carve out the “spirit of the stone. The Shona believe in 2 different types of spirits, there are the shave spirits which are the outside spirits. These are associated with people that are not Shona; the shave spirits can be either good or bad. The second type of spirit is the Vadzimu, the spirit that represents good and moral Shona society. The Vadzimu spirits are usually associated with ancestors or cultural heroes.