One way to raise money for Nhimbe for Progress is through the sales of the exquisite stone sculptures. Serpentine stone is sculpted by the carvers in the Tendai village, one of 7 villages being assisted by Nhimbe for Progress. These beautiful, one-of-a-kind sculptures are in stock in our Oregon warehouse and are available for purchase.
Looking through these images will give you an excellent idea of the shipments we receive from Zimbabwe.
A variety of animals find home in Zimbabwe, a country blessed with an incredible bounty of natural splendor. Animals are represented as part of sophisticated social customs and beliefs that incorporate animals into the clan relationship of the greater extended family. Acknowledging the family through the use of totems ensures genetic diversity. People recognize the positive qualities of their totem (or mutupo) and never eat or kill the totem animal, thereby showing honor to their family. A sampling of animal carvings available are the zizi (owl), the mvuu (hippo), the dacha (frog), the rwavhi (chameleon), the kamba (tortoise), the twiza (giraffe), and the zhon (elephant).
The relationships of parents and children are fundamental to Shona traditions – from birth to death and beyond – but is really only one aspect of a cultural fabric based on living together in close family relationship (or ukama). This concept emphasizes the greater extended family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives. These family ties are all-important and are based on mutual respect, support and love. The family unit’s survival is the key purpose of ukama.
Contemplating life’s challenges is a daily activity. How to best deal with the circumstances one finds? A thoughtful approach is the norm and provides the reflection necessary to be that “good person”. Fully understanding how deeply the Shona feels about connecting their contribution, and connection to the whole, is reflected in this paradigm and the sculptural model.
Marriage is a very important ceremony in the life of the Shona as it fulfills the purpose to continue the family’s lineage. There are strict family rules about the children and their communications regarding their plans to marry, as well as a defined marriage custom whereby the groom offers bridewealth (or roora) to his in-laws. This money is viewed as a token of the young man’s love and is intended to appease the parents for their loss.
The good person is what all Shona strive towards throughout their life. One goal, for example, is for kuzvinyorovesa or kuzvibata meaning to humble oneself thereby not offending others. Sharing one’s abundance, called pfuma, promotes harmony in the community; this greater good of the clan is kunzwanana. Helping to create this through efforts to become the good person, being happy in work and content in life is to have rufaro.
Music is a powerful force that connects everyone from all cultures. We can share music when we can’t share language. Traditional and contemporary music in Zimbabwe is an important thread in the cultural fabric of the people. Traditionally drums, mbira, hosho, clapping and voice have been the most common ways that music is shared. The mbira is a traditional musical instrument played from ancient times. The songs passed on from one person to another have most often been first heard in a dream; the dreamer then “composes” the song. There are songs for social and ceremonial purposes, which have evolved from a deep and rich history.
About the Sculptors
The Tendai’s were born in the rural village of Chandiwana. They live in the Mhondoro area near Mbudzurume mountains. The extended Tendai family consists of more than 25 members. The immediate family of eight brothers and one sister are as follows by age:
- Taf (Tafireyi), with wife Ruth Mawire, and children Patience, Perseverance and Edwin.
- Jameson with wife Chipo Chiveshe, and children Linate, Alice, and son Shelton.
- Charles, with wife Anna, twin daughters Faith and Fortune and son Frank.
- Osten passed on in 2003, leaving his wife Yunnah with one child Brenda.
- Denford is married to Trish Mamvura, having one girl, Natasha.
- Edward is the sixth son. He is not married.
- Anna is the only girl. She is not married.
- Victor is near to completing school.
- Allen is the youngest and still in school.
All of the elder members of the family received a very limited education due to the family’s poverty and due to the war (Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence). After very hard times working the land for food, and after a number of poorly paid jobs, Charles was the first to seek alternatives. The story of his childhood (below) reflects the difficulties often faced by children in Zimbabwe.
Charles Tendai Family Story (© Earth to Spirit)
When Charles was seven years old, he started primary school, but was unable to continue that year because of his family’s lack of money. Two years later, he started again. (It isn’t unusual to find children of very different ages studying together in the same grade.) This time the outbreak of war ended his studies after just three months. In 1980, at the age of 13, once again he started primary school and studied for 5 years, which qualified him to attend a community secondary school. However, after completing 2 years, he was unable to continue, as his father had no money for school fees. In 1990, Charles joined a group of sculptors in Harare for 8 months. There he learned stone sculpting from an older artist. Seeing his early success, the brothers sought Charles’ help in learning these skills. It was soon obvious that most of the family too had a talent for it. Their wives also carve, as well as help with finishing, polishing and marketing!
Fate has given the family a small outcrop of the best type of serpentine on their land, so that early on, they were able to make some money digging stone for other artists. Nowadays, they keep it all for themselves! For the right exchange they trade stone with other miners having serpentine to provide their work with more variety. Now they work together in their rural village, earning a worthwhile living, enabling them to support their children and give them the education that they had missed.
Please contact us for more information about these beautiful carvings, which like marimba music, are becoming traditions. This style of stone carving is a recent development (3rd generation) in Zimbabwean history, and reflects the deep and rich culture of their roots, although stone carvings were found at Great Zimbabwe from centuries past.
All proceeds from the sale of this sculpture goes to help fund the projects which serve the Nhimbe for Progress and Jangano villages. We were able to sponsor the Tendai children for several years until communication became too difficult as many of the members left their homes as they were given new plots of land in the redistribution. In 2005 we built a toilet for the village, in 2008 and 2009 they received the same food distribution and the other villages in Nhimbe and Jangano.
The people in Mhondoro thank you…Tatenda! See pictures as well as explanations of sculpture symbolism in the link. Write or call for more information on specific sculpture! WE SHIP!