Zimbabwean contemporary artist, Colleen Madamombe is one of the few women sculptors working in Zimbabwe and is said to hold somewhat of an inspirational role within the stone sculpture movement. Madamombe is known for her use and commitment to a particular theme within her work, adding surprising elements of complexity and intricacy to each piece she constructs. Madamombe focuses on the special qualities and individuality of Shona women, as well as spotlighting the injustice and discrimination Shona women face in Zimbabwean culture.
Madamombe engages in traditional imagery and subject matter regarding the conventional role Shona women play in society. Confronting experiences with which she is personally familiar, so much of Madamombe’s work is concentrated on mother and child relationships, pregnancy, and birth. She’s interested not just in the emotional, spiritual side to a woman’s life, but is also fascinated by the movement so particular to her sex. Through the use of powerful imagery, Madamombe captures the energy and movement of the female figures, making her stone sculptures particularly active and dynamic. Colleen works predominantly in Springstone but also uses Opal stone in her sculpture. She uses both rough and polished stone, often leaving parts of the surface of the stone in its raw oxidized form to provide color for hair or clothes, while creating expressive faces, arms and hands in the fully polished black stone. The overall effect and subject matter of Colleen Madamombe’s work is easily recognizable.
The way many African cultures portray the gender roles of women in society through art can be compared with the way Madamombe does in her sculptural forms. Although in some cultures more than others, women are honored and venerated for fertility and the ability to bear children, speaking in contemporary terms, many women in certain cultures are still being suppressed. Colleen Madamombe takes the female form and gives her life through her work. Placing the female in different areas of light while in each piece creating a strong sense of energy, Madamombe celebrates the Shona woman and generates a new way for us to view the social issues surrounding Zimbabwean women as a whole.
Said to be representing the voice of the new generation of Zimbabwean women, Colleen Madamombe states, "I am inspired by the activity of women and I work hard to show this in my sculpture. In recent pieces I have used natural areas of the stone with rough workings to emphasize this movement - the texture follows the rhythms of the body. This contrasts with the more finished areas of the face and hands. I started sculpting 25 years ago. I do women sculptures; what I see women doing is what I put in sculpting, like bearing children, going to the field, sisters and so forth. That’s what I do in my life."