SERIMA – a kind of rebirth

The Serima Mission Church in Zimbabwe, founded by Father Groeber (1903 – 1972), a Swiss missionary, after the Second World War, is a landmark in the anticipated  rebirth of Africa.

I have not been to Serima and if I had to go it would be a kind of pilgrimage.  The images presented here mostly come from a book.

Father Groeber and sculptors

It is a biding passion for me to see how the artists of the modern world manifest concepts of the sacred;   at the same, how cultures that are not European do this.  The relief work, painting and sculpture of this mission station, facilitated by Father Groeber, is remarkable.

The Last Supper


Last Supper in Ethiopian coptic idiom

He stated that, from the beginning, he tried to keep traditional European images at bay, encouraging the African sculptors to develop a wholly African idiom.  It is probable that he was not entirely successful at this.

FIgures from the Old Testament



The search for the African idiom has yielded great art in the realm of the sacred and I think of the Misa Luba, the Congolese mass, to mention one memorable achievement.  Serima, at a distance, recalls for me, the Romanesque of Europe, but there are elements that are unique as well.  The idea of a “pure” culture is probably a myth.  This work, though, has Africa at its heart.

Scene of Stilling the Storm


Figures from Old Testament

I am uncertain what the link between the Serima art and Shona sculpture is.  I’d be happy if someone could tell me.  In the meantime I can only wonder at this rich creativity coming from a country that has known war and political unrest.

Christ figure


Mother and Child

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

February, 2018



Book on Serima, details pending


Images – Fr Groeber, Church

Book on Serima, details pending








One Response to SERIMA – a kind of rebirth

  1. Thomas Sayer says:

    The lovely work of the Shona sculpturs eould seem to be post-colonial in its provenance. The Shona were colonised grom the 1890s.

    Thank you for your beautiful posting? Willem.

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