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Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Art / Culture Profile 2012






Zimbabwe Art / Culture Profile 2012


Traditional arts in Zimbabwe include pottery, basketry, textiles, jewelry, and carving. Among the distinctive qualities are symmetrically patterned woven baskets and stools carved out of a single piece of wood. Shona sculpture in essence has been a fusion of African folkore with European influences. Also, a recurring theme in Zimbabwean art is the metamorphosis of man into beast.

Among members of the white minority communtiy, Theatre has a large following, with numerous theatrical companies performing in Zimbabwe's urban areas.

Though the country's art is admired by those that know of its existence, several Zimbabwean artists have managed to gain a world audience, to name some world-famous Zimbabwean sculptors we have Nicholas, Nesbert and Anderson Mukomberanwa, Tapfuma Gutsa, Henry Muyradzi and Locardia Ndandarika. Internationally Zimbabwean sculptors have managed to influence a new generation of artists, particularly Black Americans, through lengthy apprenticeships with master sculptors in Zimbabwe. Contemporary artists like New York sculptor M. Scott Johnson and California sculptor Russel Albans have learned to fuse both African and Afro-diasporic aesthetics in a way that travels beyond the simplistic mimicry of African Art by some Black artists of past generations in the U.S..


Forty to fifty % of Zimbabweans attend Christian churches. However like most former European colonies, Christianity is often mixed with indigenous beliefs. Besides Christianity, the Mwari cult is the most practiced non-Christian religion which involves ancestor worship and spiritual intercession. Mwari is an unknown supreme being that communicates with humans through a cave dwelling oracle known as the Voice of Mwari.


English is the official language of Zimbabwe though only two per cent consider it their native language, mainly the white and Coloured (mixed race) minorities. The rest of the population speak Bantu languages like Shona (76 per cent) and Ndebele (18 per cent). Shona has a rich oral tradition, which was incorporated into the first Shona novel, Feso by Solomon Mutswairo, published in 1957. English is spoken primarily in the cities, but less so in rural areas.


Like in many African countries, a majority of Zimbabweans depend on staple foods. Mealie meal, or cornmeal as it is known in other parts of the world, is used to prepare bota, a porridge made by mixing the cornmeal with water, to make a thick paste. This is usually flavored with peanut butter, milk, butter, and/or sometimes even jam. Bota is usually eaten for breakfast. Cornmeal is also used to make sadza, which is usually eaten for dinner, and by many for lunch too. The process of making sadza is similar to bota, however after the paste has been cooking for several minutes, more cornmeal is added to thicken the paste until it is hard. This meal is usually served with vegetables, (spinach, collard greens, grapes, etc.), and beans or meat that is either stewed or grilled or roasted. Sadza is also commonly eaten with curdled milk commonly known as lacto (mikaka wakakora). On special occasions rice and chicken with coleslaw salad is often served as the main meal. Graduations, weddings and any other family gatherings will usually be celebrated with the killing of a goat or cow, which will be braaied (or barbecued) for the gathered family.

Since Zimbabwe was a British colony, they have adopted some English habits. For example, most people will have porridge in the morning, however they will still have 10 o'clock tea (midday tea). They will have lunch, which can be left-overs from the night before, freshly cooked sadza, or sandwiches (which is more common in the cities). After lunch there is usually 4 o'clock tea that is served before dinner. It is not uncommon for tea to be had after a dinner either.


Football is the most popular sport in Zimbabwe, although rugby and cricket also have a following, traditionally among the white minority. Zimbabwe has won four Olympic medals, one in field hockey at the (boycotted) 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and three in swimming at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.