MATOBO’S PAINTED DREAMS: How a woman’s dreams transform a rural homestead into a Neverland of artistic fantasy

The Chronicle

Flora Fadzai Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
BEFORE she picks up her brushes and other traditional painting tools, Ms Sitshengisiwe Moyo goes to sleep and literally lets her dreams determine her next masterpiece.

“I had a dream of my first design seven years ago. I was not keen on following it as I thought there was no way I would be able to do it properly. The dream however became frequent and I decided to act on it.

I woke up early one morning and decided to draw the design on a piece of paper.

“I went to the veld that same day to look for samples of soil and tree bark for my colours. It was as if l was in a trance because l moved swiftly and gathered my materials. When I got home, I started painting on the small paper just as a way of experimenting. When I finally got the design the proper way I started painting on one hut,” explained Ms Moyo, a former My Beautiful Home/Comba Indlu Ngobuciko runner-up who has been religiously competing in the tournament for the past seven years.

My Beautiful Home Project, according to Ekhaya Gaia Zimbabwe Trust, “is a competition that encourages the cultural practice of decorating traditional huts using the same craft that has been practiced for hundreds of years. This project takes place within the UNESCO cultural landscape site of the Matobo in south-west Zimbabwe outside the city of Bulawayo.

“The project started with a competition in 2014 with 30 competitors and has grown annually with an expected 1000 participants in 2021. The homes are designed and painted by the occupant of the home using only local mud and sands mixed with natural pigments such as coal and ash.”

The project also aims to improve conditions of life in the rural areas while preserving the environment.  Ekhaya Gaia also works with the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo and Amagugu International Heritage Centre.

With birds chirruping, huts flashing past occasionally and hills appearing like fine hand-painted art, the dusty bumpy road led Chronicle deep within the Matobo hills to meet Miss Moyo from Matobo in ward 22.  The air is filled with nature. Cows are heard mooing from time to time, children run after the car, waving excitedly to the people inside until the vehicle stops at an outstanding homestead among the array of eye-catching abodes that are adorned with beautiful hand paintings.

This is the home of the dreamer who is aptly named Sitshengisiwe, which means “we were shown” in isiNdebele. We are welcomed by beautiful paintings of flowers before Miss Moyo warmly greets us at the gate.

Ms Moyo shows Chronicle her home while explaining that it took her two months to finish the painting after she had dreamt of her art.

She says after dreaming her designs, she wakes up early in the morning and from memory of her dreams, draws on a piece of paper.

To stick to the rules of the My Beautiful Home competition she stays away from artificial materials, she uses different types of soil and tree barks to come up with natural paints.
Ms Moyo says she changes her designs annually and every time she lets her dreams guide her. This has been happening for the past seven years.

“This year I dreamt of a flower petal and that is the design I am painting. The colours I used were also inspired by my dreams. I mix soil and some tree barks to create the colours. I go on to use an old toothbrush to carefully draw the designs. If you are painting you cease being smart because most of the time I will be digging the soil out in the field.”

Ms Moyo has turned her house into a painter’s paradise, the shades , chairs and sitting areas are all painted. This has seen the occasional tourist dropping by to marvel at her handiwork. Some of the tourists come with the project founders.

“I have a shed under a tree for children to play and eat their snacks during the day. I also have a sitting area that can be used during the night at the centre of the yard away from trees as there are a lot of snakes that love trees in this area. I have also built a place for a pole which we use to place our phones as the area has no network.

“Because of my decorations, l now get white people who come and visit my home. I never thought I would sit and joke with white people without fearing for my life. It has also made me feel like a strong woman because a beautiful home in our African culture represents a strong woman who is able to turn everything that she touches into gold,” said Ms Moyo.

There is more to Ms Moyo – she is not just a painter – she designed and built her own kitchens. And of course they are coated in her paintings.

“I have two kitchens. I have the summer kitchen which is an open space and allows more fresh air so we do not suffer during summer. I then have the winter kitchen. This one is for cold days. It even has a stove which has an oven that uses charcoal that I use for baking. My kitchens are my pride so you will agree with me that they are one of the prettiest around this yard.”

The dreamer says she builds the chairs that are at the sitting area using the handmade bricks that she manually makes at her home.

Unlike artificial paints, natural paint gets washed away during the rainy season – this is the only downside of Ms Moyo’s work and it grates on her.

“The soil paint fades away when the rains come. It would be fun if we had permanent paint that way one would know their house remains beautiful even after the competition,” she chuckles.

Ms Moyo is not the only woman in ward 22 who has a fine hand for art and painting as Chronicle met with Mr Sikhosana who revealed that his wife gets her designs from patterns on her dresses.

“She imitates patterns on her dresses and chooses the one she likes the most. From there she decides on which colour would be best and would make our home beautiful,” he says.

He says he sometimes helps his wife to paint as it tends to be a straining endeavour at times.

Mr Sikhosana says the competition is not about winning, but is a way of being proud of their home and teaching their daughters about the way of life in the days of yore.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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