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Wood Carvings in Mozambique

Updated on July 23, 2012

If you are looking for an original and affordable option in decorating your home, you may want to consider Mozambican Wood Carvings. Mozambique is a country in Southern Africa with a rich culture based heavily on their artistic pursuits. Carvings are closely related to traditional religions, although many Mozambicans practice other religions, such as Portuguese influenced Christianity, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindi.


Made with Care

These wood carvings are made with extreme care using wood and an axe or some other similar tool. Sculptures can range from very large, and look like something you might see in someone's yard to very small and detailed pieces which make great conversation pieces as they line the shelves in your home as Mozambican wood carvings show a great attention to detail.


Often, these sculptures take the form of animals, but Mozambicans also hand carve many of their musical instruments as well as masks used in traditional religious ceremonies. Art, music and religion are all very closely connected in the Mozambican culture.



Even as religion is becoming more diverse in Mozambique, traditional art and Mozambican wood carvings remain popular, especially with tourists who regularly take home these carvings as a souvenir. A finished product will portray a rich color achieved by a mixture of shoe and furniture polish.


Making Instruments

In addition to masks and carvings of animals, the Mozambican people also hand carve many of their musical instruments, which are normally made from a combination of wood and animal skins. Popular instruments include drums, the lupembe (a woodwind instrument), and a marimba (a type of xylophone.) Traditional Mozambican music can be compared to Reggae and Calypso, although these instruments can be used on other types of music as well.


Ethnic Groups & Culture

Many of the wood carvings are produced by an ethnic group call the Makonde people who dwell in Southeastern Tanzania as well as northern Mozambique. The Makonde produce two types of wood carvings. Shetani are carved out of heavy ebony and are tall with nondescript faces. These are meant to be representations of evil spirits. Ujamaa are totem-like carvings with more attention to detail. These carvings are used to tell a story about a family or part of the culture.



Much of the Mozambican wood carvings are exported along with other African art to the US. These exports can take the form of animal carvings, beads, jewelry or wooden bowls and vases. the ability to sell their art outside their own country and to tourists is important and it makes an important contribution to their economy, as most educational opportunities are limited in Mozambique to Primary School only.


Artistic Expression

Wooden carvings is not the only artistic expression present in Mozambique. Paintings are also popular, and many people have taken the influence of Mozambican art and applied it to digital art as well. Mozambique spent several centuries as a colony of Portugal, and its culture blends Portuguese and indigenous customs ans artistic styles. It is a country of great interest to scholars, and Portuguese is the official language, although English is commonly spoken as well.


Appreciation of Art

As time marches forward, and we are better connected to more traditional art, these artists are able to achieve a world renowned status and people from all walks of life all over the world are able to appreciate art such as Mozambican wood carvings and paintings and learn about who these people are and what they stand for artistically.

Interview with Makonde Carver


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    • SAFlights profile image

      SAFlights 6 years ago from South Africa

      Those people of Mozambique just know how to make these beautiful pieces of art. Just love it!

    • profile image

      FoodWorks Farm 6 years ago

      Absolutely stunning photos. Such beautiful pieces!