Matobo women defy tradition to become artistic entrepreneurs
Mbulelo Mpofu and Natasha Mutsiba, Chronicle Writers
FROM the moment man fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, the role of women has been confined to the ‘kitchen’, with domestic duties defining their identity. But in Matobo, Matabeleland South, an extraordinary shift is taking place as women channel their artistic talents beyond the household.
This evolution was prominently on display during the “My Beautiful Home (MBH) /Comba Indlu Ngobuciko (CIN)” prize-giving ceremony held at the Amagugu International Heritage Centre.
The competition, complementing “My Beautiful Pots,” celebrates how Matobo women enhance their homes through traditional methods known as “ukugudula” to create visually stunning works of art, becoming a prominent event in the rural tourism calendar.
The competition, a collaborative initiative by the Amagugu International Heritage Centre, National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in Bulawayo, and Veronique Attala’s Ekhaya Gaia, aims to spotlight the talent, resilience, and determination of Matobo women.
This year’s edition was coordinated by NGZ’s Regional Director, Silenkosi Moyo and saw participants contributing as well to ensure the competition was a success.
Their remarkable ability to artistically beautify their homes stands as a testament to their skills and determination.
Among the 250 participants, 40 talented women received recognition and prizes for their craft yesterday. The prizes, including laundry baskets, solar LED lamps, certificates of achievement, and more, were generously provided by corporate entities like Treger, Halsteds, Hamara, and Alliance Francaise de Bulawayo, among others. The German Embassy also sponsored the competition.
Notably, Semkeliso Ncube from Jeqe in Ward 24 and Roina Ndlovu from Mahusumane in Ward 17 garnered special mention for their captivating designs, earning the top honours.
Ncube, reflecting on her recognition, shared her excitement and the challenges she faced during the three months of designing her hut.
“I’m excited about this recognition. I faced a lot of challenges over the three months that I had to design my hut. Chief among these was the availability of water as I had to walk a long distance to collect it but it was worth it, I don’t regret one bit and I feel like I deserved this (recognition). Last year, I won a bicycle, wheelbarrow and a whole lot more, helping my husband as well.
“I urge all women to be united and shun laziness in order to help our communities and children thrive. Through this competition, I learnt that our work is not in the kitchen only but as women, we can help our husbands to make ends meet.
“I won last year but this year’s prizes are top of them and now, this has given us renewed hope as rural women,” she said.
Ndlovu attributed her success to hard work and creative improvisation, acknowledging the competition’s tough nature.
“A competition is always hard and only the best can get you over the line. I used every ounce of strength in me to be where I am this year and I believe my usage of diverse soils helped me get a podium finish. I was under pressure since I was a little bit late and had a short time to present something to the adjudicators.
“Along the way, I had to improvise and try out new designs as I thought that something was lacking and I’m glad that it all worked to my advantage. The gamble really paid out,” she shared.
To commemorate the Amagugu International Heritage Centre’s decade-long journey, Pathisa Nyathi, the custodian of arts and history, expressed his intent to document the centre’s story since its inception in 2014.
“It has been a long time since we started this thing (Amagugu International Heritage Centre) and over the years, we have seen an improvement in the quality of work that you put in. The number of wards participating in the competition also increased and we are grateful to our perennial sponsor.
“To celebrate this milestone, I will be penning a book which will give a historical smorgasbord of the competition and the centre for posterity’s sake,” he said.
Other notable winners included Thokozile Dube from Mawusumana in Ward 17, Lovegirl Ndlovu from Ndlabatsha in Ward 18, and Adelaide Mhlanga from Gwangwazila in Ward 15.
Earlier this year, four women from Matobo District etched their names in history books when their paint work on the Buddy/Berlin Bear was unveiled at the NGZ, further cementing how talented women can be.
This kind of tenacity is slowly changing rural women from mere housewives to notable entrepreneurs. – @MbuleloMpofu / @TashaMutsiba