Last week Anne published a post on Bernard Takawira and his beautiful African stone sculptures. I enjoyed reading the linked article In the footsteps of humble African giants by Michel Botman - he’d only written it this year but goes back to his time in Zimbabwe in the 1990s.
I travelled through parts of Africa in 2008 - Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa. The closest I got to Zimbabwe was Victoria Falls, sadly Zimbabwe was too dangerous for tourists. During 4 weeks, we saw so many stalls and shops selling wonderful sculptures but far too large or heavy to cart home.
On a family holiday in March 2015 to Beechworth - located in regional Victoria and famous for its major growth during the gold rush days of the mid-1850s, I fell in love with the African Heritage shop selling African artefacts and jewellery. I bought 2 Zimbabwean stone sculptures as shown below - the shop owner had a keen interest in supporting African artists and supplied a small card with a photo of the artist, his name and some details of the sculpture.
I checked for the artists on Michel’s blog and also on the Internet - neither are famous, but I still love my sculptures. To give you an idea of their size I have included them in the photo below, with other pieces I have collected during my travels. I purchased the colourful hippo in South Africa, the mosaic elephant in Barcelona and the large lacquered elephant in Myanmar.
The small seed at the front was engraved with a few African animals by some young boys who were persistent in following us down the street – what is your name they called – I said Jane – and before you know it one seed had my name added to it.
They explained that the seeds are eaten and then excreted by elephants – no doubt the boys had a lot of fun fossicking amongst elephant dung! Bargaining was part of the excitement as we tried to ignore them, but they won in the end!
I was sure the customs officer would confiscate the seed when I arrived back in Australia – he looked at me with amusement as I regaled him with how I came by it. He popped it through one of their many machines and to my surprise gave it back to me.
I was sure the boys told us a tall tale but I have since searched the internet and the story is true. I think it’s a Mongongo nut and elephantswithoutborders.org states:
Elephants love Mongongo nuts and consume them greedily. But ironically elephant’s digestive mechanism does not affect the extremely hard shell and meat inside. Therefore, people follow the elephants to recover the nuts from the elephants’ dung, where they have dropped them. Too, the shells and dung are collected which can also be burned as fuel!
As we say goodbye to Africa for a little while we send best wishes to our African subscribers and followers and a warm welcome to our newest subscriber P.J. in the U.K. And greetings to our U.K. subscribers and followers. We have a couple of posts coming up showcasing U.K. artists very soon.
1. photos courtesy of African Heritage, Beechworth
2. my own photos