The tradition of wood caving
Most African sculpture was historically in wood and other organic materials that have not survived from earlier than at most a few centuries ago.
Wood carving in Malawi:
Wood is one of the most available resources in Malawi, therefore wood carving is practiced a lot, taking place both in rural areas near natural forests, where most of the production occurs, and urban areas, where value-adding activities take place and the products are sold.
The majority of carvings are in the form of curios and are sold in tourist markets, hence targeting the very small number of tourists in Malawi.
The main constraint to the development of the wood carving industry is that it is unlicensed and regarded as an illegal activity that destroys the forest. This has the effect of driving business underground. Despite reports that there has been dialogue between the carvers and the Department of Forestry, these carvers still operate in a state of uncertainty and insecurity and the majority live below the poverty line.
The reality is that hardwood is most heavily used locally for firewood and construction rather than craft. And though wood-carving is often cited as a source of deforestation, it is only a tiny contributor to the growing concern when compared with firewood usage and international exports of raw hardwood. Wood carving can be a source of sustainable livelihoods but it needs to be practiced in a sustainable way! Therefore wood carvers can only get out of poverty if proper dialogues and partnerships happen between them and the forestry department. Then they can start diversifying their products and reach new markets.