Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Carving tools frequently used by Makonde hard wood (Ebony) carvers.

The Makonde carvers use most of the widely used common carving tools, such as the flat,u-shape, v-shape chisels and knive.

An axe for felling the ebony tree:

 and wood hand saw for preparing the work pieces:

In Tanzania to cut down ebony tree is government control, you can not freely cut the tree, one has to have a permit and license to do so. Now coming back to our topic, the carvers frequently use the following tools: Makonde Chopping axe (tezo) for preparing the initial shape of the carving:

Hand file (Kurubula) for finishing work, on the carving:

Below we can see hand file application on finishing process of Giraffe by Mzee Kibange of Majengo Makonde carvers, Moshi, Kilimanjaro:

Makonde Wood scraper (Mkwango) for detailed finishing such as on the eye:

Makonde Wood scraper (Pondola) for finishing work:

Makonde Carving knife ( chipula):

Makonde Mallet ( Kiwenguwengu) it is used as a hammer whilst chiseling out the work piece:

In the past a carving was doned entirely by one carver and they used to sign engrave their names on the bottom stand of the carving or sometimes at the bottom end of the carving. Now with commercialization we have specialization. Some carvers do the initial rough piece of the carving, followed by those who specialised on detailed work and lastly by finishing experts. And that is why now you can rarely find a carving signed as it formerly was.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ebony wood

Ebony tree, in Kiswahili Mpingo, is a hardwood which takes many years(60 +) to grow to its full maturity, its outer core is cream in colour whilst the inner core is black. ( a small ebony tree ready for transplanting in the field). The makonde carvers use mostly the inner core of the wood to carve and chip out the outer core.
Sometimes it is impossible to chip out the entire outer core, for sculpture s beauty sake. And to compromise they dye the area so as to have the finished carving in a single colour, black. Below you can see a carving of a lion unpolished with a patch of the outer core visible.

Some customers like unpolished carving as seen to the right of a Rhino, whilst other preferred a polished carving of a Hippo, as seen below.

Customers sometimes ask question if the carving he is about to buy is real ebony or not. For verification i always tell them to skretch the bottom of the carving to see if it is genuine one, colour will come off from one which is fake. Also Ebony is heavy in comparison with other types of wood material. So my general advice to them is that, they should always do their shopping at a reliable place to avoid being ripped off or buying fake products. Sanaa Zetu is always there to cater for your needs.With its vast experience of 40+ years in business.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Makonde People

Makonde tribe is found on the south East coast of Tanzania in Mtwara region. The Makonde people have a very rich culture.
And are famous world wide for their carvings carved in Ebony wood, their carvings can now be found in almost every country.

In the past makonde carvers carved as a hobby,
but now it has turned commercial. And they have establish workshops / stalls in almost all regions in Tanzania with touristic attractions, where they carve and sell their carvings. Tourist sometimes like to watch a Makonde carver at work and take some memorable photos. The Makonde people are also famous for their Tinga tinga paintings,  (As seen here below, one among many Makonde dancing masks) their traditional Ngoma dance.The Makonde people are very cool,polite and humble people but when provoked are people to reckon. The carvers carve decorative, utility  and utility / decorative products which can be used in our homes, offices hotels etc. At Sanaa Zetu you will have the opportunity of sourcing from our wide range of carved ebony products.And we can produce customer designed products.    
Makonde dancing mask
Makonde carver