Saidi Sabiti, one of Zimbabwe´s oldest sculptors, was born in 1929 is originally from Mozambique, of the Ayawo (Yao) tribe. He came to Zimbabwe in 1949 and spent many years before Independence in the mining and farming industries. He has no formal education and speaks very little English. I n 1966 he joined the Tengenenge Sculpture Community – he had previously carved in wood, but at this time turned to his present medium, stone.
Unlike many other sculptors, he is little influenced in his work by his traditional beliefs – with the exception of imagery used in the carving of masks for the special Yao dance in the Nyao. Instead, he works from simple themes – making mental notes of things seen – as well as from imaginative ideas from moments of contemplation. Common ideas in his work include the Dendra Bird, Women (e.g. grandmothers) and small creatures such as snakes and owls. Many of his works reflect his own personal comment on situations.
Sabiti prefers to work in Black and Brown Serpentine, but also enjoys working in Springstone. He enjoys the challenge posed by large pieces of stone but even smaller pieces are selected for their volume and density. The largest piece ever carved by Sabiti weighs four ton and is called ´´The Sitting Chief´´ from Black Serpentine. Of his sculpture, Sabiti says that he wants every piece to tell a story, and as soon as he chooses the stone, the story begins. He wants people from all backgrounds to understand these stories – they are not just from Mozambique or Zimbabwe – but are amusing and entertaining for everyone.