Shona Stone Sculpture 'Wise Woman-Ambuya" J. Takawira
Provenance: Sandra Kerno Collection
Additional Information: A superb piece depicting a woman's head, signed by the great John Takawira (1938-1989), a First Generation Zimbabwe stone sculptor.
Until the middle of the 20th century, with the notable exception of the famous birds carved in steatite, there was very little sculpture of any kind in Zimbabwe. It was not until the 1950s that the stone sculpture movement was born, a movement which would change the face of contemporary African art.
In 1957, Frank McEwen, an Englishman, and a teacher, collector and exhibitor of modern art, was appointed Director of the National Gallery of Rhodesia, in Salisbury (now Harare). Soon after taking the position, McEwen began to make connections with talented local artists whom he supported and mentored. He encouraged them to find creative inspiration in their traditional religions and spirituality.
In addition to what was taking place at the National Gallery, a workshop was created in Vukutu in Nyanga district, headed by Joram Mariga, an agricultural engineer turned sculptor. Mariga was the uncle of John and Bernard Takawira, and he taught both his nephews and many other young men who would become the famous First Generation of Zimbabwe Stone culptors.
Sandra Kerno, the collector from whom we got this piece says:
"The John Takawira pieces were of special note as he left a sick bed to make a special appearance for us, and he passed away the next year. It was in 1986 when we met and he explained each piece to me."
About this head and the other one listed on our website, Sandra reported:
"The two Takawira heads were explained as a twin concept. One is listening to the spirits, taking guidance, and the other [this one] represents the elder female who has assembled all the advice from the spirits and holds it for advising her followers (see how the flowing head of hair continues to have an upward slant, as she continues to receive the words of the spirits)." (personal communication)
Joosten, Ben SCULPTORS FROM ZIMBABWE, THE FIRST GENERATION, Galerie de Strang, Lexicon, 2001; Celia Winter-Irving, STONE SCULPTURE IN ZIMBABWE. CONTEXT CONTENT & FORM, Roblaw Publishers, Harare, Zimbabwe, 1995
Franck MCEwen, THE AFRICAN WORKSHOP SCHOOL, Rhodesia, n.d
Olivier Sultan, LIFE IN STONE IN ZIMBABWEAN SCULPTURE. BIRTH OF A CONTEMPORARY ART FORM. Second edition, Harare, 1999
I have examined this piece and agree with the description.
Niangi Batulukisi, PhD.