Nontando brings you the best of Shona Stone Carvings from Zimbabwe

Since its inception in 2003, Nontando has been offering a wide selection of Shona Stone Carvings from Zimbabwe to its customers. For the past 10 years, on their annual buying trips to Africa, Nontando has been hand selecting a wide array of stone carvings from individual artists. “ We have focused on selecting and acquiring a diverse selection of carvings” says Gary Stern, owner of Nontando. Stern continues, “The stone carvings are handmade by members of the Shona, Lemba and SAN tribes from Southern Africa and each stone caving typically reflect the artist’s vision of his/her culture and traditions”. Nontando has one of the largest collections you will find anywhere and their carvings are made from a number of types of stone, including Serpentine, Springstone, Soapstone and Verdite. Stern continues, “No two pieces are the same. Once this beautiful natural stone is sculpted and imbued with the values and feelings of the artisan, it is carefully polished to produce a piece of beauty for all art lovers to cherish. The excavation of the raw quarry stone, the carving work and polishing is all done manually”.

All of Nontando’s Shona Stone Carvings are directly sourced from Zimbabwe, a Southern African country whose name literally means “the house of stone,” and are known for its remarkable stone sculptors. Some Shona sculptors are considered to be among the top sculptors in the world.

From modern abstract art to traditional tribal carvings to stunning replicas of African wildlife, Shona sculptures and  Zimbabwe artists are garnering worldwide attention and respect. In fact, internationally acclaimed Shona stone sculptures adorn the homes, gardens and offices of both admirers and discerning art collectors alike. Magnificent Shona art statues are also revered in fine galleries and museums around the globe, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Musee Rodin in Paris.

“One thing we have noticed in dealing with Shona Art is the incredible diversity of the style and design of the carvings. The Shona sculptors’ work is inspired by their deeply-held spiritual beliefs, folklore and daily life”, Stern says.

Shona Art has also inspired many western artists. It is believed that Pablo Picasso may have been influenced by this art form. While modern in inspiration, their sculptures are created much as they were thousands of years ago. The sculptors use simple chisels to “release” the spirits of the stone. As the late Henry Munyaradzi, one of the most prominent sculptors explained, “The sculpture is already hidden in the stone-I just it let out.”

Stern says, “It is an extraordinary art form that is still very reasonable in price. We have managed to collect a few thousand pieces over the years and can now offer our customers a wonderful, wide array of choices for those seeking a small gift or a piece of home décor”. Stern continues, “To think you can visit our store and purchase an everlasting, completely unique and handmade carving as a wedding or anniversary gift representing lovers or a couple for as low as $20 is remarkable”.

Nontando has supported this art form for more than 12 years through its purchases of sculpture by Zimbabwean artists. “Buying our carvings directly from the artists allow us to offer them at reasonable prices, and enable the artists to continue their artistic endeavors. Due to the political climate in Zimbabwe, and subsequent severe downturn in foreign tourists, there are fewer available avenues for artists to find a market for their work”, Stern says.

Stern concludes,” These artists have a special gift and these Shona stone sculptures are an expression of the soul”.

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To view Nontando’s collection of Shona Stone Carvings from Zimbabwe please visit http://www.nontando.com or our store at 6578 Gateway Avenue, Sarasota, FL, 34231

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Nontando, your source for African Conversational Art, Masks, Gifts and Home Decor, now 9 years old!

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Nontando, opened its retail store in 2003 in Sarasota, Florida. In 2009 Nontando’s online operation, http://www.nontando.com was launched. Over the past 9 years, Nontando, owned and operated by Gary Stern, who was born and raised in Africa, has become the number one choice for African Art, Decor and Gifts in Florida. With the online operation, Nontando, has attracted customers all across the US and internationally and has become a popular choice for designers and decorators seeking quality African product at affordable prices. Nontando’s buyers travel to the continent of Africa annually, hand selecting products covering a wide array of categories, including Stone Carvings, Wood Carvings, Lighting Fixtures, Leather Hide Products, Music and Musical Instruments, Jewelry, Masks, Textiles, Metal and Wire Figurines, Copper and Brass Range, Pewterware, Giraffes, Shadow Boxes & Frames, Ceramics, Kitchenware, Ostrich and Porcupine Assessories and more. Nontando often deals directly with the African artists and is continuing to strive to bring unique products to the American consumer.

“Our annual trips to Africa gives us an opportunity to assess and select from a diverse selection of product lines to bring to the US market” said Gary Stern, CEO of Nontando. “The innovation and creativity is phenomenal”. Stern believes the US and international consumer have become to appreciate the quality and beauty of African Art.
” Greater exposure and marketability of African Art has allowed the consumer to get a much better appreciation of this art form” said Stern, “It is wonderful to meet artists from all corners of the African continent that are coming up with new ideas to bring unique and beautiful products to the marketplace”. Stern personally does much of the travel and buying in Africa himself but says the rewards are endless. “The scope is plentiful and bringing these talented artists to the forefront of the US marketplace is very satisfying” said Stern.

The owner of Nontando does see challenges with his company’s direct buying and importing approach, “International importing and shipping has its obstacles and having imported each year over the past 8 years the process has not been smooth sailing”, Stern said, “Regardless, we still would not do it any other way. “To find these treasures and bring our customers the best quality product at affordable prices, our buying approach is the way to go” Stern said. He recognizes that the importance of price affordability in today’s challenging economic environment. In 2006 he bought the commercial property that Nontando’s retail business operates from. He limits the use of wholesalers and middleman in his buying strategy. Operates the storefront himself with no employees. Maintains and manages his online business himself. Manages the importing and shipping process in-house, hence reducing the need for 3rd party support and maintains a tight budget on marketing. “All these factors help to limit overhead, with this strategy we can be very competitive with our pricing strategy and bring affordable products to our customers”, Stern said.

Over the past 9 years, Nontando has expanded its product lines and will continitue to do so.
Nontando has a few exciting new products and service offerings in the pipeline.
They accomodate for a wide range of consumer. Stern said, “You can visit our store and find a unique gift for a few dollars, or you can find an electic piece of home decor”.  With the lauch of the website, designed and written by Stern himself, a new frontier has opened. “Its still in its infancy but the initial response has been amazing”, Stern said,”We are very excited thus far with this sales channel”.

Nontando defines the beauty of African Masks

Gary Stern, owner of Nontando (which means of “full of love” in the African language of Xhosa) has a wide smile on his face when we start discussing African Masks. “Thanks to masks, I have been able to forge some fantastic relationships throughout the African continent as well as within the United States”, Stern remarks. He continues, ” Each year when we travel back to the African continent, I place great importance of finding unique and specials pieces”. Many of Nontando mask buyers are collectors, designers and artists. ” We have had many unique requests over the years seeking masks that may cover the entire region of Africa”. This has resulted in Stern and Nontando establishing relationships and building sources in some of the most remote and rural parts of Africa. “Often some of the best pieces often come from areas of Africa that are not frequented  by many folk”, Stern says.”Generally speaking the design behind an African Mask is often associated with the tribe and region it represents”, Stern continues, ” Be it a helmet mask or a mask with some form of headdress or a  body Mask, you can pretty much determine from the applicable design the tribe and area where it comes from”.” We put great emphasis in collecting masks that are true ceremonial masks, much of which were made prior to the 1980’s and the bulk of them tend to come from the mid-1960’s”, Stern says, “You can see the difference in many of the more modern pieces from today. That is why it is critical that we can deal direct with our sources as well as handpick our masks”. Stern believes that the genuine ceremonial masks will become less accessible in the years ahead.
” Based on my travels and dealing with peoples from different regions of Africa, ceremonies associated with masks are not followed with the same fervor and enthusiasm as it used to be in earlier times. Events associated with mask ceremonies happen much more seldom as in the past and in many more modernized areas it is not practiced at all today”. Stern continues,” The social fabric has changed in many regions  and this has influenced the culture of certain groups of Africa, often, as I had mentioned earlier, it is often the tribes and peoples whose identity has remained the same, where much of the today’s finest African Art will originate”. “Often this will be some of the most extreme and hard to get to places in Africa”, says Stern.” Each year on our travels we place great emphasis in seeking African Art and Masks from areas that will not win a popularity contest for places to visit”, Stern says, “Quite often this is where some of the finest Art comes from”. Stern cites an example of meeting an Artist from Liberia on this African travels recently and now is able to source from this region, “Prior to this I had very little knowledge about Liberian Masks and I had never previously acquired any art from this country”, Stern says, “The pieces are beautiful of the highest quality, but just as important there still seems to be a strong tribal identity in certain areas of this region”.Stern remarks how many of his buyers are often very interested in pieces that are not readily available in every shop window. ” I have been amazed of how knowledgeable our customers are with regards to the culture and heritage of many of the tribes these masks represent”. continues Stern, “Over the past 9 years I have had folks walk into our store with books and other reading material and go to great lengths to learn more about the history and symbolism behind the mask that they purchase”. “It is wonderful and this often initiates them seeking Art from many other tribes and region across Africa”, Stern says.” I occasionally with get a call from a designer in a major US city seeking a mask or carving from some tribe and/or area that you may never had heard of”, Stern tell us, ” So it  is often a new discovery for us as well and with some of the contacts and sources we have established in Africa, having being born and raised there and travelling back on our buying trips for the past 10 years we most often find that piece. “It is one of those challenges I really enjoy, as it is most often an opportunity to create new relationships and sources and learn about a new ethnicity or tribal society that I may have not come across before”.

Stern continues, ” As it is with us, it is also a thrill for our customers to uncover and learn about that small  tribal group and its respective cultures and symbolism, it underlines, for me, the incredible diversity that represent the peoples of Africa and I have always wanted to bring our customers a true representation of Africa through a diverse selection of Art, be it from a small remote village in Western Africa to a urban city in Southern Africa”.

Stern and Nontando will be embarking on another of their buying trips to Africa in 2012
and plan to bring back another collection of fine and unique African Masks.

Nontando, operating since 2003, has the largest and best selection of African Art, Gifts and Home Decor in Florida. http://www.nontando.com was launched in 2009 has attracted customers from all over the US, becoming a popular choice for designers and decorators.

Nontando offering travel packages to South Africa and other African countries

Nontando, operating since 2003, specializing in African conversational art, Home Decor and Gifts through its retail and online operations, has successfully launched its travel service offerings to its customers. In late 2011, Nontando  began  offering an extensive and exciting range of tour packages to six Southern African countries.

This service offering was initially based on many of Nontando  retail and online customers seeking advice and recommendations regarding African travel. Gary Stern, owner of Nontando, based in Sarasota, Florida says, “In many ways their input, over time, helped us build the platform in identifying the criteria that we were seeking in partnering with a feasible tour operator”.

“We know Africa and we know African Art”, Stern admits,”It was of paramount importance that we teamed up with

a

travel organization that can offer our customers the experience and expertise needed”.

The owners of Nontando were born and raised in Africa and still travel back to the continent for their annual buying trips. “We used the opportunity during our annual African visits over the past few years to familiarize ourselves with some of the leading players in the African Travel Industry” says Stern.  After a detailed assessment and evaluation, Nontando selected and teamed up with a leading South African tour operator and now offers its customers an extensive collection of diverse and customized packages. “You can visit http://www.nontando.com to see the travel packages we offer, which we continue to tweak to ensure that it meets the diverse travel ideals and cravings of our customers”, Stern says.

Stern continues, “We spent the two years evaluating and studying numerous travel organizations and their

respective products and service offerings. We used the input from our customers as the building blocks in establishing the type of company we were seeking” Stern says. Their objective was to provide the following to their customers:

 1. A wide array of affordable luxury package choices to Africa providing for flexibility  and customization.

 2. An extensive portfolio of tour programs with a variety of hotels, game lodges and safari companies throughout               Southern Africa at their disposal, with an extensive support network throughout the region

3. The comfort of dealing with a “one stop shop” that includes your complete
package, meals, air travel, hotels, game lodges and safaris.

4. Itineraries that are exciting, diverse and fulfilling.

5. Dealing with a travel company that has the experience, extensive knowledge and
know-how in planning the perfect African vacation.

6. A travel package that can be customized to perfectly fit your ideals, timeline and
destination requirements.

7. A company with a  history of positive recommendations, credentials and
references and an outstanding reputation in the marketplace..

Stern says, “We wanted a partner that was recognizable and people were familiar with”. They have operated tours for 11 years, this organization is a division of South Africa and Africa’s most awarded and recognized airline, hence all packages include your airfare throughout your tour, and they have ground handlers working and operating throughout the continent”.

“In many ways we see our role here as a consultant or advisor”, Stern says,”We have travelled the continent extensively and couple this knowledge with an established tour operator that has a reputation for quality and reliability .

Stern continues, “For many folks this is a life long trip and you want to feel comfortable that you are dealing with a reputed and experience enterprise”.

Nontando has to rolled out approximately 30 tours packages since its launch to 6 Southern African countries, including

South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana. They will quite possibly to include Kenya and Tanzania tour packages in the future.Stern explains,” In addition to the regular packages offered, due to our partners very visible brand, strong relationship with its suppliers and the fact that are a division of South Africa and Africa’s premier airline, they are often able to offer special or tailor-made packages at exceptional prices”. “Timing is critical here and that is where we plan to really be of benefit to our customers” Stern says. “We will want folks to register at http://www.nontando.com and in that way we can submit the details of the specials without delay”.

Specials, where rates are really discounted and specials offers are released regularly.
The special package pricing  is valid for specific travel periods with the same itinerary available at higher prices during other travel periods. Stern shows us 2 examples of current specials that seems unbeatable and somewhat hard to believe:

$1810 – 6 days in Cape Town, including all airfare to and from the USA.
$2699 – 9 days, include Cape Town as well as African safari, including all airfare to and from the USA.

” The accommodations are top class. In this example, the 6 dayer in Cape Town you are staying at one of best hotels in Cape Town overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at the hub of the activity”, Stern says. “But here is the best news regarding these specials and all  packages for that matter” Stern say .” Prices include ALL airfares, including from the US to Africa”.  “Considering I fly back to Africa every year and know the pricing history pretty well, it seemed these prices were impossible to believe at first, but it is true”, says the owner of Nontando. Nontando plans to establish the channels of communication to ensure all customers are up to speed in real-time of all specials. “The one stop shop factor is in play here as well”, Stern says,”You do not have to make separate airline reservations, they manage the genuine whole package for you”.

Nontando’s new partner was recently appointed as one of three tour operators in the U.S. to develop and sell travel packages for soccer fans visiting South Africa for the FIFA 2010 World Cup.

“It is still a work in progress but http://www.nontando.com will give you good insight into the packages, accommodations and itineraries that we offer”, Stern

African Design and Style – Session One – Color

Considering this is my very first blog, I wanted to use this opportunity to introduce the subject matter.

Being in the industry of selecting, marketing and selling African decor over the past eight years as well travelling to the African continent annually I have placed much importance in attempting to assess our customers’ needs and cravings with regard to African design and style that they seek for their homefront versus the trends and direction of the production of African Decor at its source. Numerous factors come into play in both what our customers seek as well as the marketplace offerings in this vast continent. Customer, designers and decorators generally seeks a product that meets one of more of the following criteria:  contempary, modern, electic,