The Shona Spirit World in Zimbabwean Sculpture

Zimbabwean sculpture is a vibrant and expressive form of art that draws deeply from its rich culture and beliefs. Most Zimbabwean sculptors belong to the Shona tribe and navigate a dual belief system. Alongside their devout Christianity, they uphold older spiritual beliefs rooted in tradition.


This blend of faiths is typical of African culture and plays a significant role in how artists express this unique outlook within their sculptures. Perhaps this is what makes them special.


Shona Mythology and the Spirit World

Central to Shona culture is the belief that spirits inhabit all living things and some inanimate objects, bridging the visible and invisible worlds. Ancestor spirits, in particular, play a pivotal role in the community and are believed to offer protection, guidance, and wisdom to their living descendants.


The Shona people engage in various rituals to honor these spirits, acknowledging their continued presence and influence in the community's everyday lives. These practices underscore a deep reverence for the past and a recognition of the interconnectedness of all things.


Mudzimu (Ancestor) Spirits

Ancestor spirits or mudzimu are revered as guardians over their surviving families, providing both protection and guidance. The Shona perform rituals and practices dedicated to honoring and communicating with these spirits, often involving offerings, dance, and song.
These ceremonies are not only acts of respect but are also crucial for maintaining harmony within the community and the natural world, signifying a tangible link between the Shona people and their ancestors.


N’anga (Spirit Mediums)

In the Shona spiritual tradition, communication with the spirit world is facilitated through mediums or n'anga. These individuals possess the distinct ability to bridge the living and the spirit world. They channel messages, guidance, and healing from the ancestors.


N'anga play a crucial role in divination, healing practices, and spirit possession ceremonies, acting as intermediaries in the spiritual interactions that are critical to the Shona's understanding of health, well-being, and misfortune.


Influence of Spiritual Beliefs on Shona Sculpture

The Shona people's spiritual beliefs are vividly reflected in their sculptures. Artists draw inspiration from their cultural heritage and spiritual practices, conveying a sense of connection to the ancestral and spirit worlds.


This spiritual belief even plays a vital role in choosing materials, shapes, and themes.


Symbolism in Shona Sculpture

Shona sculptures often depict spirits and the spirit world using stylized imagery, negative space, and swirling motion. These artistic choices represent the spirits and tangibly capture their presence.


Through their art, Shona sculptors find the all-important balance between the physical and spiritual worlds. Their creations offer insights into the influence of spiritual beliefs and their unique perspective.



Zimbabwean sculptures blend Shona spirituality with artistic expression, offering us a glimpse into their world. Through their sculptures, artists show us the interconnectedness of the physical and spiritual worlds while honoring past traditions.


At Meyavé, we are proud of our collection of stone sculptures created by independent and empowered artists. We have an incredible collection of Shona stone sculptures like the Guardian by Godfrey Matungamidze or the cubist piece, Keeping Watch by Onward Sango.


Make sure to check out our extensive collection of Zimbabwean stone sculptures!