Hemingway Gallery places significant emphasis on Shona Sculpture from Zimbabwe, which was the first gallery to introduce monumental sizes of the stone sculptures to the United States. Shona sculpture serves as a means of celebrating traditional African motifs while simultaneously being quintessentially modern art, borne out of a 20th-century renaissance. The abundance of carvable stone in Zimbabwe sets it apart as the only African nation with large deposits suitable for sculpting. The significance of stone to the people of Zimbabwe is demonstrated by the fact that the term 'Zimbabwe' translates to 'house of stone' in the Shona native language. In ancient times, unique soapstone carvings of birds adorned the 11th-century city of Great Zimbabwe.
Shona sculpture lacks any formal technical artistic training. Instead, sculpting skills are transmitted through families, and the hard, large stones are shaped using just a hammer and chisel, without any modern power tools being employed. Several beliefs and cultures in Shona society inspire the themes conveyed through stone sculptures. These encompass mythology, spiritual ideology, and rituals. The Shona believe that the rock contains images that are revealed to them in their dreams by the spirits of their ancestors. When these images are brought to life through sculpture, the spirits are liberated and become a part of the shared human consciousness, soaring freely. In the words of Bernard Matemera, one of the founders of this movement: "The spirits are everywhere in the air, in the rocks. A rock is like a fruit - like an orange or a banana. You don't eat them without peeling them first. It needs to be opened to be eaten. I open the rocks. The fruit is inside."
Shona sculptors crafted a unique style that possessed a modern flair reminiscent of Picasso, Brancusi, and Modigliani while still being reflective of traditional Zimbabwean mythology, folklore, rituals, and beliefs. Shona sculpture's significance as one of the most crucial advancements in 20th-century African artwork was firmly established by a significant exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1969.
Since the early 1980s, Hemingway Gallery has been importing monumental stone artworks from Shona artists in Zimbabwe. The gallery ethically procures this sculpture directly from the source. Works from first generation Shona sculptors such as Henry Munyaradzi, Sylvestor Mubayi, Fanizani Akuda, Josiah Manzi, Bernard Takawira, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, and Bernard Matemera, are much sought after by art collectors worldwide. Despite the passing of the first generation of artists, the gallery collection still holds a limited selection of their pieces. Hemingway had a close relationship with these first Shona carvers and continues the relationship with the subsequent generations of artists. Not only are these modern sculptures of exceptional carving skill and design, but they are also affordable and available in sizes suitable for both indoor and outdoor display.