African Chief and wife stone sculptures

A matching set – African Chief and his Wife

Stone Head Sculpture – Art Roundup

A common headstone carving that is done by artists in Victoria Falls or brought from around the country to be sold here, is a matching set of an African Chief and his Wife.

Zimbabweans are renown worldwide for their stone carvings, and this is not an easy piece to do. Only experienced carvers attempt it. Very fine details are worked into the stone; the wrinkles, the hair strands, the lip lines, the headdress – it’s a real skill!

From the eyes and expressions, you get the feeling that the person has experienced life’s, griefs and happiness’s – the face tells of wisdom acquired by age. That is a talent – to communicate expressions and make the face live.

The variety of stone type and colour make for a unique piece of art.

Part of the art concept is made more vibrant by the use of stone. Zimbabwe has a magnificent range of stone available, for an artist to choose and perfect. The head sculptures are carved in hard black spring stone, coloured serpentine and semi-precious Lepidolite a soft lilac coloured stone and Verdite, a fine contribution to the finished art piece and ensure each is uniquely special!

The two carvings are usually sold as a pair – who wants to separate them? And there is great variety in size and stone colour. The proportions must be just right and when you are doing two statues that will stand side by side, they need to be sized correctly and complement each other.

Truly dedicated artists display a high regard for integrity; they don’t copy another’s artwork outright, rather they develop their own special slant or style, even if it is of the same genre. Today, work is still done entirely by hand, with a few exceptions. Nowhere do you see detailed drawings or meticulous measuring; when carving – everything is spontaneous and done by eye and feel.

On completion, the stone is rubbed with soft rags to make the faces shine and come alive!

This particular set is by Malakhi Mpophu. He lives in the rural areas, but his two sons display his work at the Craft Centre.

African chief and wife stone sculpture.jpg

Lovemore Mawire, did a beautiful headstone of a chief here, note the detail in the head-dress.

african chief and his wife stone sculpture
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A little about a Chief

An African Chief plays an important traditional role.  It may seem like we are talking about years ago, but in places surrounding Victoria Falls, Chiefs still preside over areas and make decisions for the people in their territory and assign land for homesteads.

The common term used locally to refer to the homesteads is the Rural Areas. Here you find homes or settlements that have simple hut structures (or in more modernised areas rough brick homes) that house a complete family, their livestock and their crops. The homes are a African chief and wife stone sculpturedistance from the town, with limited or no utilities. Water is drawn from the river and hand dug wells. If a borehole is installed in the area,
it is used by everyone, making it a place to water the cattle, fetch drinking water and catch up on the latest news.

Each family head – the oldest man, will make decisions for his family and extended family. A Chief inherits his power and position from his family line and lives within the community. He decides who may live in the territory, how much land they will have and other community-related decisions.  He is a highly respected man.


An activity that will bring this all to life for you is the Village Tour. 

If you would like to meet a Chief, learn about the people, history and culture in the area, this is something you should put on your to-do-list when you visit Victoria Falls.

African Chief and Wife stone head sculptures


  1. The sculptures look like a lot of hard work and dedication. They are beautiful! I like that you said that “Truly dedicated artists display a high regard for integrity; they don’t copy another’s artwork outright, rather they develop their own special slant or style, even if it is of the same genre.” I think that artists can all have an influence on each other, but it’s what we do with that influence that really shapes how true we are about our work. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Author

      Hi Daybe,

      Thanks for stopping by and reading my Art Round-up! Stone carving takes hard work that’s for sure, it’s beautiful and the end though! Yes, I think it’s sad when an artists work is copied outright. Especially because it actually takes talent to copy another’s work so exactly, they would do so much better in using those skills to create their own masterpiece! Hope you return and read more of them as they come out.

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