Listening To An Elder


Springstone (Serpentine)

  • 39.5cm (h)
  • 35cm (w)
  • 28cm (d)


Shona artist Tonderai Sowa with one of his abstract sculptures

Tonderai Sowa


“A senior person teaching a youth about Shona culture.”

The old person is bent double with age, and the youngster bends over them to hear what they are saying. The large loop on the left is the ambuya or sekuru, the small loop is the young person.

Traditional African cultures, including the Shona of Zimbabwe, respect and value the wisdom of old age that comes with a lifetime’s experience. They encourage the younger generation to respect their elders, to learn from them and go to them for advice.

Springstone is the local name for a hard variety of serpentine stone that rarely has any flaws. Its even internal structure of small grains of rock makes it a particularly good medium for Tonderai’s technically challenging style. This particular piece has some fascinating subtle colouration, like grey fractal patterns within the black stone.