WATCH: Matobo women shine as they beautify Buddy Bear (Utshomi) Voilà! Jubilation as The Buddy Bae/Utshomi is unveiled by Ambassador and Head of Mission of the German Embassy in Harare, Mr Udo Volz with the Matobo women applauding

Mbulelo Mpofu, Showbiz Reporter

ON Friday, four women from Matobo District etched their names in history when their paint work on the Buddy/Berlin Bear was unveiled at the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in Bulawayo at an event attended by a sizeable crowd.

Matobo women who painted Utshomi pose for a photo with Regional Director at National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, Silenkosi Moyo (third from right), Ambassador and Head of Mission of the German Embassy in Harare, Mr Udo Volz, (top left) and Talent Kapadza (with scarf) at the Unveiling of the Buddy Bear on Friday at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo.

Portia Ndlovu, Khumbulani Ncube, Khathazile Mlala, and Lackina Zulu from Mahusumani Village under Ward 17 and 24 in Matobo became the centre of attention when the bear they painted was unveiled.

Under the guidance of Talent Kapadza and Sikhulile Hlongwane who was the facilitator and co-ordinator of the Buddy Bear project, the quartet toiled to perfect, Utshomi (a native name for “Buddy”) from start to finish.

 The Buddy Bear, a 2-metre tall bear sculpture made of fibreglass, is the symbol of the German capital Berlin, thus being called Berlin Bear. The Buddy Bear campaign was initiated over 20 years ago by the German Foreign Ministry and made the Buddy Bears known around the globe as ambassadors of a liberal and cosmopolitan Germany.

The idea of the Buddy Bear being painted by women from Matobo was a result of the German Embassy Harare, My Beautiful Home (MBH)/Comba Indlu Ngobuciko (CIN) competition which started in 2013. Those who came up trumps were given an opportunity to work on the bear. From painting huts and clay pots, the quartet were tasked to paint a life-size bear, a challenge they relished.

In separate interviews, the women shared their varied experiences working on the life-size bear which was initially snow-white.

“It was a wonderful experience working with on Utshomi because it was a new endeavour for us since we’re used to painting our huts and clay pots using clay. I’m still shocked that we were able to pull it off. Under the guidance of our supervisors, we were able to undertake our duties effectively. It’s wonderful to be able to preserve and retain our colourful IsiNdebele culture,” said Portia Ndlovu.

 A visibly jubilant Khathazile Mlala was over the moon about her efforts.

“Many times, rural women are not highly-regarded and being the stars of this has given us a platform to shine and also show that rural tourism is important in creating important bilateral relations as witnessed between Zimbabwe and Germany. I’m so happy to have been part of such an important part of history in the precinct,” said Mlala.

 At the event, Gilmore T directed events while entertainment was provided by all-female Nobuntu, all-male Asante Mo and mixed chorale group, Sounds of Joy Chorale.

Nobuntu performing at the Unveiling of the Buddy Bear at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo on Friday.

 The Ambassador and Head of Mission of the German Embassy in Harare, Udo Volz presided over the presentation ceremony while Amagugu International Heritage Centre (AIHC) director, Pathisa Nyathi, and Regional Director at NGZ in Bulawayo, Silenkosi Moyo gave speeches.

Katrin Simon from the Federal Republic of Germany’s Embassy in Harare gave the vote of thanks, showering praise on the women who painted Utshomi.

“We would like to thank these women for braving long distances to fetch water and clay for painting their mud huts, a feat that has afforded them the chance to be the ones to paint the Buddy Bear, a symbol of German friendly relations with other countries.

“The Buddy Bear was painted by women who didn’t know till now, that they were true artists who will do so much for their country. The contribution of the German Embassy will be the beginning of a chain reaction, stimulating the development of Matabeleland and of rural families by attracting visitors and commercialising various products,” Simon said.

The bear will be domiciled at the NGZ in Bulawayo before being transferred to Harare where it will play an ambassadorial role at the German Embassy. –  @eMKlass_49

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