Portrait photo of woman Shona sculptor Colleen Madamombe from Zimbabwe

Colleen Madamombe

Colleen Madamombe (1964 – 2009)

Colleen Madamombe is the best-known and most sought-after female artist in the Zimbabwean sculpture movement.

Colleen was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe). She studied at the BAT Workshop School at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in 1985/6, obtaining a diploma in Fine Arts. She married sculptor Fabian Madamombe in 1986 and joined him at Chapungu Sculpture Park in 1987, where she began to experiment with stone sculpture. Colleen worked at Chapungu for three years and became close friends with another very famous woman sculptor, Agnes Nyanhongo.

Colleen became best-known for her work depicting women in Shona culture: the themes of womanhood – marriage, motherhood and sheer hard work, twinned with demure dress and bearing – are her stock in trade.

Colleen’s work formed part of numerous Chapungu exhibitions overseas, such as “Custom and Legend – A Culture In Stone” (Kew Gardens, London, UK 2000).

Due to the innate appeal of Colleen’s choice of subject matter, as well as the high prices her pieces command, Colleen’s work is targeted for imitation and forgery.

Be very careful when investing in a ‘Colleen’ that its authenticity can be traced reliably through reputable dealers. Look in particular for precision in the technical creation of the piece, especially the facial features – anything poorly made is unlikely to be an original. If in doubt, ask the seller for proof e.g. photos of the artist with the piece and don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions.

If the piece is shown photographed in Zimbabwe then be very wary – all genuine Colleens are in public and private collections – there are none available for sale in Zimbabwe now, more than 10 years after her death.

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