Painted House competition sets Matobo abuzz

IN what is clearly another demonstration of the growing ethos of collaborative effort in the local creative and cultural industries, a newly-launched cultural legacy project — the Painted House competition — has set Matobo villagers abuzz with anticipation.

Admire Kudita
Own Correspondent

Amagugu International Heritage Centre is slated as the venue for the competition’s prize-giving ceremony to be held on September in Matobo district.

The Painted House competition is being run under the theme “Comba Indlu Ngobuciko”.

“The painting of huts is a tradition that was passed from generation to generation. By losing the tradition, we run the risk of losing our heritage,” said Pathisa Nyathi, one of the organisers and also founder of Amagugu International Heritage Centre.

The centre is located in the Unesco designated cultural heritage locale of Matopos at Whitewaters Business Centre some 60km along the Bulawayo-Kezi Road.

“The tradition of painting huts was mainly practised by the baKalanga, baSotho and baNyubi ethnic groups. This year we are asking people to submit what they already have (already painted and decorated huts) so that we can say in subsequent years these are the changes that came about as a result of our intervention with this initiative,” Nyathi said.

It is understandable for one to be tempted to believe that cultural sage and historian Nyathi is the sole mover of the project given his formidable contribution in Zimbabwe’s cultural arena.

Nyathi is a renowned educationist, author, biographer and newspaper columnist whose forte is the anthropology and cultural aspects of life in the southern part of this country.

At a press conference held in the Khumalo area to launch the initiative, it was revealed that it came to fruition as a result of inspiration that one Veronica Attala got while hiking in the Matopos area.

She recalled that as she moved around, the painted huts “spoke to her” and got her to muse about the lives of people in rural
areas.

One thing led to another and soon enough, Nyathi and John Knight — a professor of architecture — came on board to help give form to the vision.

“We started off the three of us from different backgrounds with a common interest (in the art form). We started off by approaching Chief Masuku to get his approval and he gave us the go ahead,” said Knight.

“We had another meeting with his village heads to explain the idea this past Sunday. So we have given flyers to the village heads to distribute to people in their wards that will in turn be handed back to the village heads to submit at Khumalo business centre, Dewe and Silozwe.

My main interest and inspiration in this project has been about pride and awareness in the local architecture. The rondavel is a proud, classical, perfect illustration of that.”

Further consultations with the National Arts Gallery in Bulawayo’s regional director Voti Thebe gave the project impetus with the revelation that the gallery is running a similar project in Filabusi.

Fittingly, Thebe will be the guest of honour at the prize giving ceremony.

Significantly, corporate sponsors such as Freight Consultants, Squeaky Clean, Halsteds, Fortwell, Kango and Icrisat have bought into the vision through donations ranging from household items (pots), agricultural implements and cash for prizes for winners.

The submission deadline for the competition is August 31 and will involve judges visiting and interviewing participant artists.

Judges include Clifford Zulu from the National Gallery and Andre Van Rooyen. Bhudaza (Painted Faces) contest is running concurrently.

“For the Bhudaza competition the women will come to the venue and paint each other’s faces. In the future we may have to bring women from the Xhosa community in Mbembesi to help train the other women,” elaborated Nyathi.

The project is set to be expanded to other regions.

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