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These people need no canvas to show off their talent, they have though in another way to do that. Their walls serve as their canvas where they express their ideas and creativity. Each house in this society is differently painted, and they all represent the culture of the tribe using the traditional colours and motifs.
The credit for these artistic masterpieces goes to the Ndebele tribe people, which is an African ethnic group, that are located mainly in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Their origin comes from the Nhuyni tribes that makes up around two thirds of the whole black population in South Africa.
Creativity of Ndebele Tribe People
Previously these people were often subdued and assimilated and many intermarriages occurred, that is believed to have resulted in these painting techniques. Another believing is that these paintings are actually symbols that the residents used to communicate with each other, during the war between them and the Dutch settlers (so called Boers). The paintings have stood as symbols for continuity and cultural resistance. The Dutch looked at them like paintings with an artistic value only and believed that these decorations are harmless.
The masters of these paintings are the women in this society and this is passed from generation to generation by the mothers. A well painted house indicates that the woman in the house is a good mother and wife. After they get married the women are expected to paint the whole exterior and the interior of their dwelling.
Designs of the Patterns Evolve
The design is evolving from year to year. And the paint too. The first designs were all forms and patterns generally known among the population and a part of their traditional treasure. Firstly, women used mud and painted their houses with their fingers. Afterwards, with the French invasion the acrylic natural colours were promoted to this society and they started using them, but these were all washed with the summer rains. Along with their palette of colours that involved throughout the years and the quality of the paints, the designs have involved too, thanks to the wittiness of the residents and their ability to remember the forms they spot around the visitors that arrive there. There is even a BMW sign on one of the houses.
image by F B, license CC BY-SA 2.0
If you want to witness these masterpieces you should definitely visit Mapoch which is 40 km outside of Pretoria heading west. Also, don’t miss to visit the village Mpumalanga in eastern South Africa that is bordered with Kwazulu Natal on south, and Mozambique and Swaziland too. These villages will give you the best insight of the rich culture that has existed among this ethnic group for a long time and is painted in the vivid and colourful symbols on their walls.
image by travel_companion, license CC BY-NC 2.0