This is a very impressive and bold work by one of the most sought-after names in Shona sculpture. The piercing eyes, and the long straight line of the nose, highlighted by the use of contrasting textures in the stone, all speak of Nicholas’ tremendous affinity with the medium and his huge natural talent. This piece really does have the wow factor!
Sadly, Nicholas is no longer with us to ask about his inspiration when making the piece. However, based on other similar works within the Shona sculpture aesthetic, we can surmise that the polished half of the face is that of the human being. By contrast, the half where the rough texture of the natural stone is left represents the spirit. A spirit medium is often someone who has a familiar spirit through whom they can make enquiries or entreaties in the spirit world.
Historically, Shona beliefs in the spirit world have been a frequent source of inspiration for many of the most famous artists of the sculpture movement.
Originally, this piece was exhibited at Gimpel Fils Gallery in Mayfair, central London. It was bought by a private collector and remained in his collection until his death a few years ago, following which it was acquired by the current owner. The piece comes with a copy of the original gallery invoice from 1992.