Charles Bies


                     new style began to develop in Makonde art with the introduction of the Shetani figures.  Shetani figures are legendary spirits or demons who can be benevolent or evil, playful, sad, humorous or serene.  The use of these mythical creatures in carving gave artists more room for imagination: they were able to express their deeper feelings and desires through the various forms of shetani.

Born in Dar es Salaam in 1970, Charles came from a long family history of carvers. When he was 6 years old, his grandfather took him to their home village, Ndanda, in South Tanzania, and taught him the traditional art of carving.  Charles never attended school – he has dedicated his life to carving. He says it is his contribution to his people; his way of preserving his culture.

A style that is distinctive to the Makonde is the Tree-of-Life. This is a totem pole of figures, all interlaced and intertwined, rising up to six feet tall. It often tells stories about relationships between people, the land and animals, or carries moral messages about social behavior.  These carvings can take months to complete and exhibit an intricacy of design and detail that would not be possible to achieve in a wood less dense and strong than mpingo or ebany.

Charle’s commissioned work has been installed in many of the cottages.

Medium: Mpingo African Blackwood
Each work is original
size: 15 x 150 cm tall

The Mpingo African Blackwood (ebony) tree has long been over-harvested across the continent to obtain its dark, lustrous heartwood.  The wood is greatly

prized by carvers.  

Although African Blackwood is still relatively abundant in South-East Tanzania, illegal logging is widespread, and very poor, forest-dependent communities generally receive little benefit from logging on the land around their villages.

According to Tanzania law sellers of Ebony Wood require:

  1. BulletCertified source of Mpingo

  2. BulletTrader and Dealer in Forestry Produce Registration

Gibb’s Farm Makonde carvings are ethically produced and sold.

The Sanaa Art Gallery is registered, the wood certified.  Much of the merchandise available in the Gibb’s Farm gift shop supports the community. 

Most sellers of hard woods and Makonde carvings in our area are not registered nor is their ebony wood certified.  Please help us set the example of responsibility

and sustainability.



Commissioned 2009 for  the Wedding House $4,000



Commissioned 2008 for  the Tloma House $4,000



Commissioned 2009 for  the Coffee House  $3,000



Commissioned 2009 for  the Grass House $4,000



Mzee Ngoyoo Mollel
Commissioned 2008 for  the Ngorongoro House $4,000
The Datong and Hadzabe people occupied the area long before the Maasai. Around 1840 they were driven out by the Maasai. The story we prefer regards an elder Mzee Ngoyoo Mollel who lived in the area.  He was a maker of cow bells, or inkokorri, which he used for trade. The bells he made hung from many of the cows and goats in the area, each with a very sweet sound. The community, called lkorongoro, desired the sound of Mzee’s bells, a pleasant way to keep track of a herd. 

The sweet sounding bell speaks ngoro ngoro ngoro.  The German’s, the first Europeans in the area, heard mzee’s bells in the early 1800’s and came to call the area Ngorongoro.

Mzee likely obtained the metal for his cowbells from the Somalis to the north or Toga people from the south.  Traded pots and cups from such people were recycled into bells and bush knives.  Highly valued spears and knives were made by the Toga people who had access to the iron ore and forge technology. Mzee Ngoyoo made the cowbells so loved by the community for filling the air with ngoro ngoro ngoro.  

As he was an elder he enjoyed tobacco.  Some would trade tobacco for small bells. Warriors would trade the alartata, a long walk stick used by wazee - helpful when walking down steep trails such as the Ngorongoro Crater rim.

“Through my work I hope to educate the children about how important it is to know your culture and be proud of who you are.”