If you are new to the world of African stone sculpture and considering purchasing your first few pieces, it is important to take some time to learn about the history of the art form and current trends. This can help you determine the authenticity of pieces you want to buy and decide which dealers are best to work with.
Know the History
Shona sculpture comes from Zimbabwe, where there are large deposits of various types of stone, ideal for intricate carving. Although many of the sculptures are influenced by traditional themes and ideas, the movement is relatively new, starting in the 1950's. Since then, there have been groups of sculptors who follow both traditional Zimbabwean artistic influences and contemporary, global influences.
As Shona sculpture became more popular around the globe, it became highly commercialized. While some benefits of this popularity includes artists being able to support themselves and explore their art form, some of the drawbacks include artists copying popular works, mass production, and fake works being passed off as if they were by famous artists.
Know the Tools
Many people would argue that authentic Shona sculpture is made using only hand tools. These range from homemade chisels, picks, and sandpaper to professional tools. It is becoming more popular to use power tools to produce Shona sculpture. Introduction of power tools is a complex issue involving the commercialization and mass production of the art form and the natural evolution of the artistry.
It is important for you to decide whether you want to purchase handmade sculptures or whether you are open to purchasing works completed with power tools. It is also important to know that some vendors try to claim some sculptures are handmade when they are completed with power tools, which is why it is important to work with a gallery or procurer that you trust. Tracing the history of a particular sculpture and its artist will help you determine its level of authenticity according to your standards.
Know the Names
For many owners, the piece they purchase is more important than its history. However, if you are purchasing an investment piece, it is important that you determine the worth of a piece. For this reason, you will want to familiarize yourself with the most popular Shona sculptors and their styles. This can help you recognize when a style is being copied by other artists and when you come across a truly unique piece.