Matobo mud huts attracts tourists

The Chronicle

Yvonne Ncube, Showbiz Correspondent
WHAT started as a hobby and a competition to see who is the best traditional painter is now set to enrich female contestants of the My Beautiful Home/Comba Indlu competition as plans are afoot to attract foreign tourists, who want to experience what it feels like to reside in the rural areas of Zimbabwe, to the beautifully painted houses in Matobo District.

This was revealed by Primary and Secondary Education Deputy Minister Edgar Moyo who was the guest of honour at the ninth edition of the My Beautiful Home/Comba Indlu contest.

The beautifully painted and adorned residences are expected to play a significant role in attracting tourism into Matobo’s hidden areas, as there are plans for these homes to host foreign visitors.

The Deputy Minister said the women who paint the homes need to be financially empowered and the best way to do that was to attract tourists to their area.

Women in the rich cultural area strive all year to create the most spectacular décor for their homes for the September competitions that aim to rejuvenate their adopted Sotho culture.

“This is a competition of ukucomba izindlu (painting homes) by women and also painting our faces as part of makeup. People always think that makeup are the things you buy at cosmetics shops but we have our traditional ways of doing make-up. If you go around the villages you’ll see how beautiful the chalets are. Others call them huts but I would like to call them chalets. This is a revival of our culture in the Ndebele area of Ezintabeni.

“It is a way of encouraging our people to preserve our culture and to transmit it from generation to generation so that it is not lost. In addition to this, I was talking to the Ambassadors of France and Amagugu Director Mr Pathisa Nyathi to say we need to add value to these competitions so that it doesn’t just become a competition but we create a stream of activities and value addition,” Deputy Minister Moyo said.

Mud huts

He said he has engaged responsible authorities to introduce cultural tours.
“One way of doing this is to have these beautiful homes playing host to our tourists. I have engaged tour operators to say that in addition to the game tour that tourists have they can also introduce cultural tours as a way of promoting cultural tours. After the tours they can come and experience a night in these homes and in the evening, they can experience the African fire, and have stories told and enjoy dances such as amabhiza and isitshikitsha.

“They can also experience the traditional food that we eat and the songs. This is a very special cultural preservation and a sustainable economic activity for our communities. We are not only a host to the mountains around us but also to a rich cultural heritage. In the beginning, there were only 30 women who took part and it has grown to over 800 participants. We have to take pride in our culture, preserve it and earn a living out of it,” he said.
Ambassade De France Au Zimbabwe representative, Ms Sylvia Rajaonah said the beautiful homes are a great way to drive tourism.

“The Beautiful homes are a good way to develop and drive tourism into Matobo. Victoria Falls for instance is a beautiful place but going to villages to meet Zimbabweans and exposing foreign visitors to the Zimbabwean cultures is a unique experience they can never find anywhere in the world. As the Deputy Minister said local tourism and promoting women can benefit everyone both Zimbabweans and foreign visitors.

“The embassy is very keen on promoting culture and we have offered financial support to the success of the competitions. We’d definitely recommend tourists that are coming in to visit this part of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a rich cultural culture and we’d be happy to export these cultures to our respective countries,” Ms Rajaonah said.

Amagugu Cultural Heritage Centre founder and co-founder of My Beautiful Home contest, Mr Pathisa Nyathi said the competition plays a big role in revitalising culture and promoting women.

“My beautiful home/ Comba indlu is an old project which is nine years old courtesy of Veronique Attala, I remember when she came to me seeking collaboration and at that time I was travelling to the United Kingdom. During my absence, she approached Professor John Knight and when I came back, they were already in contact and the three of us initiated the project. Veronique used to cycle in the Matobo hills and while she was doing that she came across these beautiful buildings in terms of their decorated walls and she fell in love with them, that’s how the project was born. Later more people started joining us and we became a team.

“The whole idea was to improve the appearance of these homes and to revitalise the visual art tradition that had declined at the weight. We have since produced a book on the architecture and art of the Ndebele people. When the Ndebele arrived in this part of the world, they used to construct what is called a beehive which did not present itself to decorated walls. The wall and the roof were one, this idea of decorating homes came mainly from the Sotho people,” Mr Nyathi said.

He said the exterior decorations of the beautiful homes have origins from Sotho people.
“When you look at the project now the exterior decorations are traceable to the Sotho people. Then later they adopted the interior, the people who always had these shelves in their kitchens were the Shona, Kalanga and Inyubi who are similar ethnic groups. So, when you look at these homes which are now very beautiful, they capture these elements. More women have been coming in from more wards and this improved the appearance of these homes.
The prizes have gone a milestone in assisting the women. These are courtesy of our sponsors, some of whom have been there from the first year we started this project. The designs in these homes serve as intergenerational transmission of our heritage. Even the colours that are used are natural colours for example for black they use burnt maize cobs. Some have even learned the combination of colours to come up with different new colours,” he said.

Ms Royina Ndlovu and Adelaide Mhlanga

Mrs Veronique Attala said she is humbled about how the competitions have grown in preserving culture and promoting women.

“I like to see people living their traditions rather than leaving their traditions for modernity. The idea is to introduce the modern world into a tradition for example the introduction of boreholes, solar equipment, and the internet. Women are encouraged to paint their houses because it is their tradition and also it makes their homes look beautiful.

“Some people living in the urban areas have shown interest in having kitchens like that, and some request to have these women come and do the kitchens for them in their houses in the urban areas. So now we have people in the urban areas looking at people in the rural areas with a different eye and that is really important to me.

I would also like to assist in adding to their income with ecotourism so that they can have a better life and live the way they like. They don’t have to leave their home to look for jobs in the urban areas if we empower them. What they are doing there is already unique to the rest of the world,” she said.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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