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The Matobo Women Art

Who Are the Matobo Women?

In the Matabeleland South Province of Zimbabwe lies the Matobo District. This place is famous for its yearly artistic and cultural ‘ritual’ in which women of that district paint and design the interior and exterior parts of their huts with colourful, bright and beautiful patterns and shapes. These versatile and skilful women show off their artistic skills by painting murals on their huts, walls, and surroundings using only ash, charcoal, soil and water.

 

When Do the Matobo Women Paint Their Huts?

The women usually have to wait until harvesting season for that year is over before they engage themselves in their ‘free time’ to show off their painting and designing abilities. All through the year, they are busy farming, tending to livestock and taking care of their homestead. But, once they have harvested their crops, they immediately get into the mood for painting and designing their huts.

What Can Be Painted?

Almost anything can be painted upon. The paintings may be done on canvas, furniture in the living room, sleeping quarters, kitchen and cooking area, etc. However, most of the painting is done on the hut itself. The passion, skill, craft and talent of these women are revealed in the colourful and attractive murals which can be found on their walls.

 

Setbacks and Challenges

Every year, the rains come around and wash away the paintings done by these artistic women. While some might dwell upon the fact that all of the women’s hard work and effort have gone down the drain, some optimists believe that the rainy seasons should be seen as a ‘new beginning’. It is seen as a chance to get creative and paint new designs that are better than their previous ones.

 

Also, modernity and globalisation have begun to threaten this beautiful cultural practice as many Zimbabweans are gradually embracing the use of bricks in building their houses. Huts and mud houses are gradually becoming unpopular as many people in this district and in different parts of Zimbabwe have begun to build modern houses instead of the usual mud ones.

Competitions and the Preservation of Culture

In order to preserve this beautiful cultural heritage, the Amagugu International Heritage Centre was set up in 2010 by Pathisa Nyathi in collaboration with the Zimbabwean Government. to encourage and support local men and, especially, women in their art by organising yearly competitions in which they are able to win prizes and awards. This is confirmed by one of the organisers of the competitions who states that: “If nothing else, this competition, we realised, has given women stature, and recognised and rewarded their role in the homestead and beyond.”

The patterns and designs made by these women could easily compete with the paintings done in the city or urban centres. More importantly, this cultural practice has encouraged the influx of tourists into the country. Some designs may look simple and plain, while a whole lot of others are sure to capture the interests and attract the attention of art critics, art lovers and art enthusiasts from different parts of the world, who delight in the artistry that has gone into the creation of these images and patterns.

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