If you buy any souvenirs in Zimbabwe, buy one of the marvelous stone sculptures, mostly carved by the Shona, the predominant tribe in the northern part of the country. In the past 25 years, the art world has made quite a fuss over these sculptures, and a few artists now command exorbitant prices in European and American galleries. The style is something between modern and primitive; the simple lines and native subjects are compelling.
For a few dollars U.S., you can find wonderful examples of these sculptures in just about every crafts fair, flea market, and gift shop in the country. Like any flea market, however, the quality varies. I got the impression that every would-be sculptor in Zimbabwe was trying his hand and making his fortune, fortunately, most of them are very good, if not all that original. The market I visited in Harare had only one booth where the young man showed any creativity. The Falls Crafts Village in Victoria Falls, had more variety, but they didn’t have the dramatic style of the Shona.
Most of the sculptures are done in serpentine, but I also bought one in sandstone. If you don’t make it to Zimbabwe, take heart. Like many things you bring back from afar and think are unique, the Shona sculptures have started to show up in gift catalogues and import shops.