On the right hand side, a curling line of prayers goes up to the spirit world. The straighter part, on the left, is their response coming back down to the living.
The whole sculpture is a communication between the living and the spirits.
In traditional Shona belief, there is a spirit world populated by ancestor spirits. For the most part, these are good guardian spirits, who watch over the living and look out for them.
So, the spiralling lines can also represent a person’s spirit ancestry, the lines of family stretching back generations.
Curiously, during this recent visit to Zimbabwe, Tonderai himself was struggling with a condition which he interpreted as spirit possession. Apparently, the spirit of his maternal great-grandfather was making a nuisance of himself.
You might scoff at this as superstitious nonsense, but we were very concerned for his health! Luckily, on his better days, Tonderai was able to work. Clearly he used his spirit possession as inspiration for some very creative sculptures.