When looking to decorate your home with African sculptures, you might find that the sculptures that are available are made from different materials. Some are made with clays like terracotta and others are made from a material called soapstone. The benefit of soapstone is that it can be carved, whereas clay sculptures are usually molded and formed while the clay is wet. Here’s a look at what soapstone really is and how it is used to make these sculptures:
Information About Soapstone
Soapstone is a type of metamorphic rock found around the world that is mainly composed of talc. Talc is a soft clay mineral that is mostly magnesium silicate. It is also made of other minerals, such as tremolite and anthrophylite. Depending on how much talc is present in the soapstone when it is mined,
The solid rock has a silky, soft feel similar to a bar of soap; hence, the name soapstone. High talc soapstone, also known as artistic grade stone, is used for carvings, sculptures, and engravings. Low talc soapstone, referred to as architectural grade, is harder and better suited for building materials.
Benefits of Using Soapstone
Soapstone is relatively maintenance free. It is also antibacterial and does not burn, making it a great architectural product. Soapstone is available in limited shades of gray, green, and black. When a sculptor creates something out of this material, they are left with the choice of leaving it in its pure form or painting it. It is interesting to note that it has a long history of use when creating sculptures. The earliest known example of using soapstone to create this kind of art dates back to around 2000 B.C.
Using Soapstone in Africa
As mentioned above, soapstone is a popular material to use for sculptures. Using soapstone for carvings is something that started in Asia and eventually moved on to other parts of the world, including Africa. Eventually, artisans in Zimbabwe made soapstone carvings. This practice was at its peak from the 11th Century A.D. to the 16th Century A.D. However, the practice continues today.
Currently, soapstone sculptures are especially popular in Kenya. Since the material is mined in Kenya, artisans were quick to embrace it. They now create traditional sculptures using this material. The soapstone is mined in the area around Kiisi, Kenya. It is then carved before the material is treated. Once the sculpture is complete, it is dipped in water and then polished if it will remain in its natural state or painted to give it some color.
African sculptures made of soapstone are perfect for decorating your home and they also make great gifts. Visit amooti.org for more information about soapstone sculptures.