Eclipse Chaser Picture
Programmer: Bill Kramer
Last update: April 17 2015

Zimbabwe Eclipse - Stone carving of eclipse over the brick walls and tower of the Great Zimbabwe ruins.

While in Zimbabwe for the 2001 total solar eclipse we met a wonderful man named Elliot Nobula who was our bush guide. We asked if there was any sort of local art work related to the sky and specifically the solar eclipse. Most of the traditional art of the region was based on a combination of older tribal art mixed with realistic renderings of local animals and a smooth flowing style influenced by modern artists. The sculptures are considered Shona Art.

Shona is the name currently attributed to the people in the northern two thirds of Zimbabwe although the origin of the name is somewhat misty. Little to no written history exists in the area prior to the influx of colonists. Oral history tends to be regional. For example, one story has it that the name Shona originates from the Ndebele word "abetshona" means "those from over there". What ever the reason it is the tribal name most associate themselves with in Zimbabwe.

During the eclipse of 2002 Elliot was able to watch in the region near the Botswana/Zimbabwe border along with his family. A trained outdoorsman he observed the local animal behaviors during the eclipse. We arranged to meet after the eclipse in Victoria Falls where the idea of creating some sort of artistic series based on his observations was born. Elliot contacted local craftsmen, explained what he had seen, and they came up with an artistic representation of the eclipse based on cave paintings by the ancient San people. They then used their knowledge of the local animals to recreate what Elliot had reported.

Common theme: Each of the pieces created contains a series of circles representing the sun and the stages of the eclipse in the same style as often found in ancient San Cave paintings in the region. Many of the sculptures include stacked, round stones representing the Matapos Hills region in southern Zimbabwe where the eclipse path crossed. Some include brick layered stones representing the Great Zimbabwe, an ancient city of the Shona people. The eclipse path was south of the Great Zimbabwe ruins. Another common theme is a path way of stars. There were no constellations to the African people, just the Milky Way. The Milky Way was considered the pathway or river in the sky and it's almost North/South orientation made for a form of navigational guide when crossing long stretches of land. The inclusion of the Milky Way infers the transfer of day to night even though the Milky Way is not visible to the eye during a solar eclipse - it does not get that dark.

External Sites of Possible Interest:
History of Shona Art
Shona People History
Shona People in Wikipedia
Great Zimbabwe National Monument

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