Makonde Art Work
The Makonde are an ethnic group in Southeast Tanzania and northern Mozambique. Makonde Art is best known in the ebony medium. All our ebony sculptures are hand carved by members of the Makonde tribe. They are internationally famous for their unique wood work; that is why this artwork is called Makonde.
The Makonde were the first to create abstracts that were later imitated by other artists worldwide, such as Picasso. Because of their geographical isolation, the Makonde were not influenced by the colonial period. They have remained nearly out of reach of changes that have taken place in the country since independence. Their relative isolation has resulted in their high degree of ethnic self-awareness. The Makonde have been practicing their artwork for over 500 years.
Mzee Beda at Work – All the while his hands work busily, his eyes never leave the sculpture.
All the tools used by Mzee Beda and all the other Makonde carvers is traditionally handmade by them. Modern power tools are not used.
What makes the ebony wood unique is that the core of the tree is charcoal black and the bark is light brown. Ebony is the hardest wood to carve and it is so dense that it sinks in water. Because each piece is individually crafted, variations in size, color and carvings will occur.
Whenever I am at the Mwenge Market Place, an artifact always catches my eye.