The Law Givers

Nicholas Mukomberanwa (Zimbabwean, 1940-2002)

Currently on View in W305.c3
Image Licensing

Nicholas Mukomberanwa was a pioneer in the contemporary Shona sculpture movement. His work is in the permanent collections of museums around the world. The artist began carving stone in 1962 after meeting Frank McEwen, the first director of the National Gallery, in what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia. In the 1950s, while colonialism was still in effect, McEwen, a British man, opened a workshop that provided Shona sculptors a safe place to work, and the opportunity for their art to be introduced to Europe and America. Shona sculptors inherited a sophisticated culture, which produced stone structures and sculpture 500 years ago. In this stone carving, the continuity of Shona culture is articulated by the loving and powerful embrace of the elders. Recognized by their wavy beards, they may be receiving guidance from an ancestor spirit to assist them in their leadership. About “The Law Givers,” the artist says, “We accept what the elders decide and their decisions become our laws.”

Object Information

Nicholas Mukomberanwa (Zimbabwean, 1940-2002)
creation date
serpentine stone
27 x 22 x 9 in.
mark descriptions
Signed, proper left, verso
accession number
credit line
Gift of the Alliance of the Indianapolis Museum of Art
© Nicholas Mukomberanwa
African Art

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