Every year in August, hundreds of women participate in a competition supported by Ekhaya Gaia, a local NGO supporting sustainable communities, to showcase their ornate homes. The prices include agricultural and hydraulic tools such as plows, wheelbarrows and water storage tanks. For each of her victories, Masuku was given a water tank, which she uses to harvest and store rainwater to get through the dry months of the year.
After months of painting, the results quickly wear off. Each year, the elaborate decorations are washed away by the onset of the rains in October. It is a loss but also a welcome end to the dry season. And he’s giving these in-house artists a new canvas for next year.
So far, few tourists visit the Matobo Hills to hike, bird watch or admire the painted houses due to travel restrictions linked to the lockdown. But for Masuku, it remains a special place. “When I’m here I don’t have to worry, I breathe the fresh air and it brings me back to my inner center, where I should be,” she said.
The traditions celebrated by the Ma Belle Maison competition are specific to the region, but their spirit is universal. “I hope other people around Zimbabwe will be inspired to decorate their homes,” she said, “and to make their homes something they love”.
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