A Makonde treasure

There were a number of locations around Dar es Salaam where African carvers gathered, chipping away at a hunk of ebony. I heard their tap, tap, chip, chip as I approached while my eyes spun around absorbing the curvaceous art pieces resting on the dirt. Tins of black boot polish lay scattered amongst their tools as ebony in Tanzania is a light coloured wood.

Makonde fertility carving

Many were ujamaa carvings with people piled on top of each other, the political message of the day, symbolizing people working together. Nothing caught my eye as the steamy wind swept over the hill where the carvers worked, until I spotted this beauty.

Years later a nursing friend visited my house and stared at the carving holding a prominent position in my living room.

“It has the reproductive organs hidden in it,” I said as she eyed the piece.

“I can see that,” was her response.

And so I explained that Makonde carvers often kept carvings of this genre outside their homes to ensure fertility though I doubt any were as beautiful as mine.