Etched From Stone

When we lived in Zimbabwe, I enjoyed visiting areas where local artists displayed their stone sculptures.  Whether working with serpentine or soapstone or another form of mineral, the Shona sculptors possessed the ability to carve people, animals and intricate shapes from rough pieces of rock that they then smoothed and polished into beautiful pieces of art.

Before we returned to Canada, I purchased a number of Shona sculptures of various sizes, designs and colours that captured my interest. While most of our sculptures are polished and completed, my favourites are the ones that feature rough stone on the outer edges, showcasing the rawness of the original rock.

My most treasured piece of stone art, however, is a small and unfinished sculpture that I found in a junk pile. From the rear, it looks like an ordinary rock that wouldn’t warrant a second glance, but when you turn it around, you can see the carving of a man emerging from a dark cave. There is something so simple but yet profoundly human about the carving despite the fact that it was never completed. I’ve often wondered if the artist felt he messed up the carving and then decided it wasn’t worth salvaging.

I’m drawn to a similar rawness in other people. When they come across as too polished and complete, I feel as though there is something artificial or manufactured about them. They’re nice to look at and admire, but I can only guess at how they became that way. I like to discover a bit of the rough stone that they’ve been etched from as this portrays a work of art that is authentic, alluring and unfinished.

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