Black History Museum exhibit celebrates month

By JANE CLARK SUMMERS

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – An exhibit of South African sculptures will be on exhibit at the Black History Museum throughout February in celebration of Black History month.

The exhibit, on loan from Saltillo resident Vandeen Philpot, is titled “Romancing the Stone.”

“The exhibit is what you would expect to see in San Francisco, New York or Chicago,” said Betty Fry, chairperson of the museum board of directors.

Philpot will be special guest at a reception at the museum from 5-7 p.m. Feb. 13.

Most of the sculptures are carvings of tribal people but some are of animals and abstracts.

The public is invited. There is no admission charge, but donations are accepted.

“We just want people to experience it,” Fry said.

The museum, which opened last July with artifacts collected from the community, “is getting it together,” she said. “We have some wonderful volunteers. Bobby Ratliff and Walter Fry built the stands for the exhibit.”

History of Shona sculpture

The sculptures from Zimbabwe also are called Shona sculpture after the name of the largest tribe engaged in sculpting since ancient times.

The art is handed down through the generations, Fry said. Children begin carving with wood and graduate to stone, she said.

The country is rich with veins of rock that form a palette of colors. Some 200 colors have been geologically catalogued with hardness ranging from soft soapstone to hard granite.

According to authorities, early sculptors drew inspiration from traditional culture, mythology, ancestral spirits and folklore. Modern sculptors have moved away from the traditional themes to some extent. Their work can be categorized as abstracts, couples, family unity and wildlife.

The stone is hewn from the earth by hand and carved by hand without benefit of power tools. The highly polished finish is achieved by heating the stone near a wood fire and painting on a coat of wax. The firing causes the stone surface to expand, drawing in the wax. When cool, these surfaces are hand buffed with a cloth to bring out a range of flecks, speckles and colors in the stone.

Zimbabwe, which means “house of stone,” was settled between the 11th and 15th centuries when Europe was just emerging from the Dark Ages.

The Shona used hand-hewn granite blocks to build towering buildings without mortar.