Eyes of Shona

Press Release

January 11, 2011


In the late 1960’s, a small group of Shona sculptors from Zimbabwe burst on the art scene in London, NY, and Paris. Their unique semi-abstract organic style of art forever changed art history and led Newsweek to report in 1987 that ‘Shona sculpture is perhaps the most important new art form to emerge from Africa this century.’  As with other definitive art movements like Cubism, Impressionism, and Pointillism, the founders of the Shona movement established a timeless signature artistic style.


On February 3 at 6pm, the Madison Museum of Fine Art (MMoFA) presents a collection of these hand carved sculptures in “Eyes of Shona” produced in partnership with the K-12 Putnam County School System, at the Plaza Arts Center in Eatonton.  The hand carved stone sculptures created by the founding fathers of the Shona movement were selected by the visionary mentor of the movement Frank McEwen and toured 9 American cities in a 1968 ground breaking exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  


The MMoFA goals for “Eyes of Shona” are to teach visual art history, awareness of visual art resources, how art museums work, cultural stewardship, and broad career skills that extend beyond the museum setting. The K-12 interdisciplinary study of visual art demonstrates MMoFA’s educational philosophy that visual art literacy accelerates learning in all disciplines including math and science.  Putnam science students are studying the qualities of serpentine stone used by the Shona artists, math students are studying measurement and perspective in the works of art, world history students are studying the mysterious ancient city of Zimbabwe, and music students are studying popular African and American music at the time the Shona art movement emerged. MMoFA is also coordinating with the Zimbabwe consulate to link Putnam students and MMoFA with similar artistic pursuits in Africa.


Works by artists featured in MMoFA’s Shona collection are also held by the Museum of Modern Art in NY, the Rodin Museum in Paris, the London Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, and the Kresge Museum in Michigan. Upon Frank McEwen’s death, the sculptures featured in “Eyes of Shona” passed from the Museum of Modern Art to his son. Thanks to the generosity of Mr. John Donaldson of Atlanta and New York City, they are now held in the collection of the MMoFA.  ‘Eyes of Shona” will run for two weeks. The Gala opening with music, student documentary film, and art will begin promptly at 6pm at the Plaza Art Center on Thursday February 26. For more information, call 706-340-8395 or visit

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