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.