Monday, 19 August 2013

Proud maiden

There is one more thing I have to tell you about our July visit to Savonlinna (my earlier posts on the trip here and here). On one of the afternoons we split up for a while. He used to sail the seas as a teenager and later did his whole career in marine industry so he went to inspect the museum ships on his own while I walked a bit further away with my camera. We agreed to meet by the Provincial Museum.

On the left, Football Coach by Wonder Luke.

Good Listener by Marian Nyanhongo.
There was a sales exhibition of stone sculptures on display on the Riihisaari rock plateau by the Museum. It was entitled Master Sculptors of Zimbabwe and organized by Friends Forever International. There were some abstract works plus a number of sculptures of both animal and human figures made of volcanic stone. I felt the animal ones had some resemblance to traditional African wood carvings but those representing humans were something new and unique to me. In many of them just part of the stone was polished and the rest had been worked on rather roughly. I was drawn to them, especially to a particular smaller one...

I Now Know by Marian Nyanhongo.

He had strolled through the exhibition on his way to the ships. Being rather thrilled about these works of art, I pointed to him several ones that I adored. Most of them were by Marian Nyanhongo, one of the few Zimbabwean female sculptors. I also mentioned casually that the small lady was the one I loved the most. To my surprise, he had set his eyes on that one, too. Within seconds we came to the conclusion we should buy the Proud Maiden of opal by Sebastian Chifamba.

Behind the Proud Maiden, Dino Head by Square Chikwanda.
While he was retrieving the required amount from the cash machine, the Danish Friends Forever lady on site told me that this art form had started in Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia as it was then called, when lots of people were left unemployed from tobacco fields in the 1960s. This happened because of an international ban to import tobacco from the racist white minority government. As many men were skilled in wood carving and as there were plenty of beautiful colourful stones to use an idea emerged to educate the best talents to become sculptors. Some of them are now internationally renowned artists having their works included in the collections of major museums such as the MoMA in New York.

Blind Chief by Wonder Luke.
I Want To Be A Mother by Marian Nyanhongo, and Thinking Man by Enos Gunja.
There are several organizations devoted to promoting Zimbabwean stone sculpture through sales exhibitions. The organizer of this show Friends Forever International, for example, arranges several exhibitions around Europe annually. They have already been to Helsinki several times in recent years. I understood they will be exhibiting again next July in Savonlinna in connection with the Opera Festival. They also have a permanent show in Berlin.

Caring Mother by Marian Nyanhongo.
Charming Lady by Square Chikwanda.
I wish every success to all the talents engaged in this art form. Let’s hope the sad situation in their country will soon be resolved so that a proper kind of democracy could finally start evolving there.

PS. Should you see something like the below Lovers by Marian Nyanhongo in our garden one day you will know I must have won some cash on a lottery of some sort. Meanwhile, as soon as we have figured out the ideal place for our modest-sized (42cm and 6kg) Proud Maiden I will let you know.


  1. Those are amazing sculptures, it was so interesting reading about them. How wonderful to bring a lovely piece home with you too. Thank you also for your good wishes.

    1. Aren't they wonderful. You have to love the brown spots revealed in the dark stone. We think our maiden's outfit is just stunning.