Zimbabwe stone sculptures carve a niche at SFO Museum

Kneeling Woman, c. 2005, on view in Stone Sculpture of Zimbabwe

Kneeling Woman, circa 2005, on view in Stone Sculpture of Zimbabwe

SAN FRANCISCO – Stone Sculpture of Zimbabwe, a new exhibition at the SFO Museum, introduces travelers to a unique artistic tradition of stone carving that began in the 1950s. The show will continue through October 24.

Several factors encouraged the contemporary stone sculpture movement in Zimbabwe. Joram Mariga (1927–2000), who began carving in the 1950s, influenced and encouraged work in this medium for decades and is considered the founder of Zimbabwean stone sculpture. In 1956, curator Frank McEwen (1907–94) became the first museum director at Rhodes National Gallery (National Gallery of Zimbabwe) in the capital of Salisbury, now known as Harare. In the early 1960s, he established the National Gallery Workshop School, where fledgling artists were encouraged to carve sculpture from local soapstone. Artists later began working with harder stones, such as serpentine.

Happy People, c. 2005

Happy People, circa 2005

In 1966, in the Guruve District, north of Harare, stone carver Crispen Chakanyuka (1943–2002) encouraged tobacco farmer Thomas Blomefield (1926–2020) to establish the Tengenenge workshop on his farm. The workshop attracted talented local artists as well as those from the neighboring countries of Mozambique, Angola and Zambia. Several other smaller landowners also established workshops. The art of stone carving expanded throughout the country, with young sculptors training alongside experienced artists.

Last Supper, c. 2005

Last Supper, circa 2005

The selected work on view reflects the diversity of approaches by 21st-century artists. Common themes in stone sculpture include the ancestral spirits, family, mothers and children, animals and abstract or whimsical forms. Each sculpture expresses the artist’s imagination and ingenuity. The art of stone sculpture in Zimbabwe continues to evolve, with thousands of sculptors currently working in Harare and throughout the country.

The SFO Museum extends a special thank you to Mona N. Cummings and Kudzai Nyandoro for making this exhibition possible.

Visit sfomuseum.org/stone-sculpture-zimbabwe for more information.


Stone Sculpture of Zimbabwe is located pre-security in the Mayor Edwin M. Lee International Departures Hall, San Francisco International Airport. This exhibition is on view to all airport visitors, and there is no charge to view the exhibition.

About SFO Museum
Established in 1980 by the Airport Commission, SFO Museum’s mission is to delight, engage and inspire a global audience with programming on a broad range of subjects; to collect, preserve, interpret and share the history of commercial aviation; and to enrich the public experience at San Francisco International Airport. The museum has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums since 1999 and retains the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport. Today, SFO Museum features 25 galleries throughout the airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, which houses a permanent collection of more than 140,000 objects related to the history of commercial aviation. To browse current and past exhibitions, research our collection, or for more information, please visit www.sfomuseum.org. Follow us on www.facebook.com/sfomuseum, www.twitter.com/sfomuseum, or www.instagram.com/sfomuseum.