By Loveness Nyathi
The new United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Brian Nichols, on Wednesday launched a Ndebele art book featuring works of art by local Matopo women.
The book is titled “Preservation of Ndebele Art and Architecture" which was edited by Violette Kee Tui and Phathisa Nyathi is dedicated to female artists in Matopos, whose homes were painted and featured in the book after a competitive exhibition called “My Beautiful home- comba indlu ngobuciko Project”.
The project sponsored by the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation was coordinated by Amagugu International Heritage Centre (AIHC) and the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo (NAGZ) and Friends of the Gallery.
The two editors said the book is meant to celebrate the artists’ creativity and the art they use to beautify their homes.
Speaking at a ceremony to launch the book at AIHC in Matopos, Ambassador Nichols applauded the women of Matopos for revitalising their tradition and said the decorations have a lot of meaning which has however been lost over the years.
He said the United States of America values what people do especially cultural preservations that dignify communities.
AIHC director, Mr Phathisa Nyathi expressed gratitude to Mr Nichols for assisting them in making the project a success.
“The painting of houses is a very old tradition that was beginning to decline so your funding came at the most opportune time to revitalise this tradition," he said. "When we initiated the project only about 30 women were practicing the age old tradition but the number has risen to more than a hundred after we held the competition”.
Mr Nyathi said they held several workshops and researched with women from Ward 15, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25 actively contributing.
Nyathi said it is important to make sure the paintings are documented for posterity.
Addressing the audience at the launch AIHC programmes coordinator Bukhosi Kgosi Nyathi, said the Stars of Matopo are the women who did the paintings (Omama abacomba imizi ngobuciko).
Amakhosikazi media spoke to Thokozile Dube (58) of Ward 17 Gobalitombo village in Matopo who was the first women to paint her home using clay who said she loves painting and she has inspired a lot of women in ward 17 and 18 who would see her in the newspapers.
“I love painting and have won a wheel barrow with a water tank, plates, pots, kitchen utensils and a bicycle for my efforts”, said Dube.
“Ngiyaziqhenya ngoba ngiyisibonelo kwabanye omama ngokuhlanza umuzi wami, ngiyaziqhenya ngesintu sami (I am proud because I am an example to other women for beautifying my home; I am proud of who I am and I am proud of my culture)”, she added.
Thulisa Ndlovu (42) of Matopo said she started painting all her huts and fowl runs in 2014 after learning from Dube and she also said other women uses modern methods of painting because they don’t want to use their own hands.
“I want everyone to see the beauty of my home because it is next to the road, Amagugu visited our homes and they loved our work”, said Ndlovu.
According to a brief about the book, the work presented in it was born out of a desire to share knowledge on the preservation of the visual heritage of decorated huts to revitalize an age old visual tradition that was on the decline.
With the advent of colonialism and the western style of decorating and thatching huts indigenous people have abandoned their artistic skills passed down from generation to generation as commercial paints replaced the traditional artistic clay.