From the Maasai women in East Africa to the Gursi Women in West Africa, it has always been customary in some African societies for women to construct and design their dwelling spaces and structures. In Matabeleland, a province in the south of Zimbabwe, the Matobo women have set themselves apart with their beautiful traditional hut designs.
Every year, soon after the community is done with the harvesting season, the Matobo women paint the exterior of their huts with unique designs. Materials used for the painting process include charcoal, ash, water and soil. When the rains come, the painted murals usually wash away until the next time after harvest when the women will re-paint them again.
In what could arguably be described as talent or self-taught exterior design, the Matobo women translate the rythms of every day life into abstract patterns such as zigzags, diamond shapes, scallops, stepped lines and motifs. As a result of their unique art forms, the Amagugu International Heritage Center in Matobo started The My Beautiful Home Competition in September 2014 that sought to reward the best interior and exterior designs while encouraging its continuation.
Described as a tourist attraction in Matobo, the Amagugu International Heritage Center was established in 2010 by Pathisa Nyathi and aims to preserve indigenous cultural heritage. The center organizes the Amagugu Food Expo and is also credited with the preservation of Ndebele art and architecture such as the aforementioned one by the Matobo women. In a Zimbabwe where the traditional art form on dwellings is in danger of disappearing as more Zimbabweans opt for modern brick houses in place of mud huts, the center’s vision is much needed.
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