#Review: The Sculptors of Mapungubwe

22370107The Sculptors of Mapungubwe by Zakes Mda

Published: October 14th 2013
: Kwela
Paperback: 181 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Archaeological Fiction, Africa, Iron Age
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Source: Bought from Raru
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The narrative centres on the timeless kingdom of Mapungubwe where the royal sculptor has two heirs, Chata and Rendani. As they grow, so grows their rivalry – and their extraordinary talents. But while Rendani becomes a master sculptor of the animals that run in the wild hills and lush valleys of the land, Chata learns to carve fantastic beings from his dreams, creatures never before seen on the Earth. From this natural rivalry between brothers, Zakes Mda crafts an irresistibly rich fable of love and family. What makes the better art, perfect mimicry or inspiration? Who makes the better wife, a princess or a mysterious dancer? Ageless and contemporary, deceptive in its simplicity and mythical in its scope, “The Sculptors of Mapungubwe” encompasses all we know of love, envy and the artist’s primal power to forge art from nature and nature into art.” – Goodreads

My Thoughts:

This tale takes place over several years and follows Chata, a sculptor that doesn’t quite fit in. He creates amazing creatures that are only in his imagination and has a way to step on people’s toes without meaning to. To be fair, some people need their toes stepped on! Most of the book takes place at Mapungubwe – an Iron Age archaeological site dating around AD 1220 to AD 1300, situated at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers (Southern Africa). I was lucky enough to go with my honors Archaeology group to Mapungubwe a couple of years ago, as well as lucky enough to study this fascinating time period!

20130825_123959-1024x768My honors archaeology group at Mapungubwe

All of that said, I think this book was extremely accurate and I was impressed by not only the writing, but the clever narrative. The story was inspirational and the pages turned themselves! It was fascinating and delighted the mind.

If you are looking for a historical fiction that takes place in Africa, has accurate archaeological facts and is unlike anything you have every read before – then I suggest you take a look at this novel!


This got a 9/10 from me.