Kennedy Arts
(Sculpture Studios)
The Kennedy Arts (Sculpture Studios) Is An Art Studio Based In Zimbabwe Run and Owned By Kenny Zano. The Sculpture Studio Uses Various Stones For Its Artwork Like Dolomite, Verdite Stone, Spring Stone, Serpentine Stone Etc.
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Stones Used in Zimbabwean Sculpture

Top Zimbabwean sculptors would never dream of using soapstone – so what do they use? Locally sourced hard serpentine stone is the ideal sculpture medium.

What are the sculptures made of?

The majority of stones used in Zimbabwean sculpture are locally sourced and belong to the geological family Serpentinite. They are sedimentary, having originally been laid down on a sandy seafloor, and metamorphic, since subsequent exposure to intense heat and pressure over hundreds of millions of years has transformed them into hard stone.

Stones Used in Zimbabwean Sculpture
Serpentines are rich in iron, so when the stone weathers it turns a rust colour.

In Zimbabwe, they occur as part of the Great Dyke, a horseshoe-shaped geological formation stretching through the north and east round to the centre of the country. The natural weathering processes are now exposing the rocks at the surface. Colours range from yellow and green, through brown to black.

Serious sculptors prefer the hardest varieties of serpentine such as springstone, fruit serpentine and leopard rock. These dense stones have extremely fine grains and uniform structure, making them ideal raw materials for sculpting.

Types of serpentine stone

1. Springstone: The commonest type of Zimbabwean serpentine, locally known as springstone

‘Springstone’ is the type of Zimbabwean serpentine that the sculptors use most frequently. The best-known springstone mines are in the Mvurwi area of northern Zimbabwe.

The reasons for this popularity are: Mvurwi is only 90 minutes from Harare, the mine is reasonably accessible by truck, and the springstone occurs in large pieces. The fact that it emerges from the ground in huge sections means it’s perfect for making larger works that are also frost resistant, and so are suitable for outdoor display even in temperate climates.

2. Leopard Rock:
Hard variety of serpentine, usually pale with black dots, known as ‘leopard rock’

Leopard rock is a hard and unusual variety of serpentine. It comes from a few small mines in Nyanga, eastern Zimbabwe, and gets its name from the black spots on a pale background. There is a sub-variety from Shamva, north of Harare, which is stronger yellow colour.

3. Fruit Serpentine: ‘Fruit serpentine’ is a colourful and diverse variety of serpentine stone

Colourful fruit serpentine comes from the Kwekwe area, south-west of Harare. This type of serpentine is not widely used, which, given its lovely colouring and slight translucence, is a real shame.

This stone is, in many ways the opposite of springstone. It occurs in small scattered pockets – each one a unique combination of colour and internal pattern and texture – and the mines may only be a few cubic metres. When the mine is finished, you won’t see that particular type of stone again. The mines are dotted around up steep slopes, difficult to access. Stone must be quarried by hand, and transported manually downhill and thence to the roadside. It’s labour-intensive, slow and expensive. Also, the stone itself rarely comes in large pieces, often having fault-lines running across it that keep the pieces small.

So, for these very practical reasons, sculptures made from fruit serpentine are rare as it is such a hassle for the artists to acquire.

A similarly colourful serpentine comes from the north of Zimbabwe, near the town of Guruve; the artists call it ‘flower serpentine’.

4. Cobalt Stone: ‘Cobalt stone’ is a purple and green variety of serpentine

This purple and green variety of serpentine comes from the Chiweshe area of northern Zimbabwe not far from Mvurwi. It has lovely colours, and the mine is much easier to get to than the fruit serpentine area around Kwekwe.

For that reason, cobalt stone is much more commonly used. However, it is softer than the other serpentine varieties mentioned so far. It is also more stratified in composition than other serpentines, and suffers from the problem of having fissures between these layers. Often, this leads to cracks. Therefore, Shona Sculpture Gallery is very careful about any works in cobalt and we don’t tend to have any for outdoor display.

5. Opal stone: What’s known as ‘common opal stone’ on the left, a green and soft serpentine; on the right, a similarly soft variety from Domboshawa is white

Another very common type of serpentine is what is colloquially known as ‘opal stone’ (a very soft pale green serpentine) and comes from Chiweshe, north of Harare. Also pictured is the white variant known as ‘Domboshawa opal stone’ from, you guessed it, Domboshawa.

Because this stone is really soft, not much harder than soapstone, Shona Sculpture Gallery does not show any work in common opal stone (or Domboshawa opal stone) for outdoors. In fact, we rarely have pieces in these stones at all.

Please note that all types of ‘opal’ serpentine are soft, not much harder than soapstone, and are not suitable for outdoor display in winter. Any website that suggests ‘opal stone’ is as hard as the opal gemstone is misleading the reader and revealing a basic lack of knowledge of Zimbabwean materials.

Non-serpentine stones:
A number of other types of stone (that are not of the serpentine family) that are perfect for sculpting are found in Zimbabwe. These stones are often even harder than the hardest serpentines and some, such as the currently fashionable red jasper, require electric tools for shaping.

They include the mineral verdite which is an intricate swirl of shades of green, the mineral lepidolite which in pure form is a perfect lilac/purple and white marble (and sometimes even pink) which is identical to that found in the Italian Alps and is very hard with large crystals.

One of the most highly prized (and expensive) stones available to Zimbabwean sculptors is the beautiful deep green verdite

Purple lepidolite is a much-prized and expensive mineral
White marble known as ‘dolomite’, with crystalline structure that glitters in the sun
Zimbabwe’s stone mines

Mining for raw stone in Zimbabwe is a small-scale operation. Mines are usually small open-cast pits, dug by hand on scorching hot hillsides, on steep slopes and accessed only by footpaths.

They are too small to cause any environmental damage and form a valuable alternative source of income to rural communities.

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