portrait photo of Zimbabwean Shona artist Joram Mariga
Joram Mariga (1927 - 2000)

Joram was born in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe into an artistic family - his father and brother carved wood and his mother made ceramics. He initially used wood, but when he was moved to Nyanga in the Eastern Highlands in 1957 by his employer Agritex, he began experimenting with carving the local soapstone.

Mariga was well aware of the significance of stone in Shona culture and history. Without outside influence or encouragement, he turned to the rich seam of Shona beliefs and heritage to inspire his sculpture. His work from the very early times had a strong spiritual dimension.

Pat Pearce, a sculptor who lived in Nyanga, introduced Mariga to Frank McEwen from the National Gallery, who was instantly enthralled with his work.

Other artists joined Mariga in Nyanga, where he lived in a treehouse in a baobab tree; Mariga became the lynchpin of this group of artists who quarried their own stone and sculpted it. The artists in this exciting community included John and Bernard Takawira (Joram's nephews) and Moses Masaya.

In 1968, Agritex transferred Joram to the north of the country where the best serpentine deposits are to be found, and he then began to use the most challenging materials available.

Joram regarded himself as the Father of Modern Shona Sculpture, and he was held in great esteem by other Zimbabwean artists. He travelled the country, "whispering the gospel of stone sculpture." Tragically, he died in a car crash near Rusape.

Exhibition highlights:

  • 1963 'New Art From Rhodesia', Commonwealth Arts Festival, Royal Festival Hall, London, UK
  • 1972 'Shona Sculptures Of Rhodesia', ICA Gallery, London, UK
  • 1989 'Whispering the Gospel of Sculpture' Solo Exhibition, National Gallery Of Zimbabwe
  • 1990 'Contemporary Stone Carving From Zimbabwe', Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK

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