Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Southern African Adventure...Harare, Zimbabwe



Harare, Zimbabwe

    






To be honest, when my plane left Victoria Falls, I did not know how I was going to get to my Airbnb. I actually did not know where it was in relationship to the airport. I did know that Zimbabwe has a currency problem – a lack of a currency. The Zimbabwean dollar had been abandoned in 2009 and demonitised in 2015. I was told to bring US dollars in small denominations – ones, fives and tens. People in Botswana had been telling me that Zimbabweans were starving and robbed people for food. I feared being exploited by a taxi driver or worse. I was on a budget. The Airbnb owner had already tried to charge almost $50 dollars for airport transport (One way!) It costs $38 dollars from La Guardia airport and JFK to anywhere in New York City. Why would it cost $50 to go less than half hour from the Harare airport! In truth, Harare was not really was not as bad as the rumor mill had promised. People were living their lives just like anywhere else. However, in order to have a successful, cost effective visit, I did need to have some supports in place that were not yet firmed up when my plane took off from Victoria Falls. I worried the entire plane ride with the regular nervousness of a lone traveler going to a new city in which they do not know a soul. My anxiety was augmented by the tales I had heard of Zimbabwe’s instability. This is where the family of God comes in. I had faithfully attended a church in Gaborone called Harvest Christian Church. They are a part of a network of churches called CTMI (Church Team Ministries International) that are all over the world, and well represented in Southern Africa. (The one in the US is in Pensacola, Florida.) One of the members, Sister Noma from Zimbabwe, who has since become like family, called the Harare church to let them know what time I was coming and to try to arrange a ride for me. By the time I landed and switched my phone off of airplane mode, Brother Joe Pinkas had messaged me on whatsapp to let me know that he was on the way to the airport to pick me up. A kind-faced gentlemen arrived in a black sedan with his cute little son, Jared, sound asleep in the back. I thanked him profusely as he loaded my bags in the trunk and the back seat. When I gave him the address of the Airbnb we quickly discovered how far outside of the city it actually was. The write –up had named one location in the city, when the house was actually located in an awkward and distant neighborhood that would have cost a fortune in taxi fares to get to and from inner Harare. Brother Joe got on the phone with the church leader who had asked him to come and get me. After a brief talk with this sister and with his lovely wife Yvonne, they invited me to stay in their much safer and better - located home, in their extra bedroom. This was true Christianity.
Matthew 25:31 – 40 says it like this.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
RE -stored Home Decor and Crafts by Joe and Yvonne Pinkas
Hair Clip from RE -stored Home Decor and Crafts by Joe and Yvonne Pinkas
Hand Painted Earrings from RE - stored Home Decor and Crafts
I was a complete and total stranger to the Pinkas family, but they took me in. They are truly the sheep that the Lord mentioned in this passage. I became a member of the family, and ate breakfast, lunch and dinner with Brother Joe, Sister Yvonne and their cuddly two year old son. They arranged for me to go into the city the next day with Clifford, a young man who works for them, so that I would be safe. Before I left, Brother Joe handed me a bottle of water, an apple and the hat off of his head so I would not be sunburned. That is God’s love. The love of Christ. Agape love. (Writing this reminds me that I need to send them more of a thank you.) The way they cared for me touches my heart. I also got to see another side of Southern African life with the Pinkas family. They live in a beautiful home (rather more like a small homestead) surrounded by plush green grounds on the outskirts of the city, close to the airport. They raise rabbits and have fruit trees. They have three affectionate and excitable 'outside dogs' who rush to greet visitors and who love belly rubs. Yvonne has a marvelous vegetable and fruit garden. They make jam out of the gooseberries growing in plentiful patches on the garden's outer edges. I enjoyed it on my morning toast. There were bushes of both French and English lavender. (Yvonne placed a fresh lavender bunch in my room) They are a family gifted in arts and crafts. They run a thriving business called RE-Stored Home Decor, Craft & Photography offering hand - crafted earrings, picture frames, door knobs, wall hangings and all kinds of beautiful things. They specialize in laser cut wood. All of the things they make engage a fresh, rustic, farmhouse charm, mixed with an Afro-Zimbabwean aesthetic and love for the country. Sister Yvonne does all of the illustrations. They both have Shona and European heritage. Yvonne is an artist, art teacher and craftswoman. Joe is a mechanic and craftsman. With their support, I had a wonderful time seeing Harare.











Harare! Another African city! I cannot begin to describe the feeling of walking through the streets of this bustling and exciting urban center in my Homeland. First of all, it was sunny and beautiful. All of the trees bore the deepest green leaves with the prettiest (and biggest) flowers I have ever seen. My first stop was the National Museum. Once I saw the art work, I knew right away that Zimbabwe was a very different place than Botswana. I kind of knew in the airport. A huge ad with the slogan, ‘the revolution continues’ was painted at least eight feet tall and twenty four feet wide on one of the airport walls. Like South Africa, Zimbabwe fought a war of liberation against European colonialism. Just like with the African – American Civil Rights Movement, such a freedom struggle always leads to a cultural renaissance of Black consciousness that is expressed through art. African – Americans had a Black Arts movement - many of the participants were my art teachers growing up. AfriCobra, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez and the whole host of brothers and sisters who embraced a renewed African identity were the Black Arts Movement. Zimbabwe had the same. But their sculpture tradition from antiquity always represented Zimbabwean Black identity with beautiful and striking form. The paintings, prints, magazine covers, traditional artifacts, installations and sculptures that I saw at the National Museum did the same, with added bold-faced political messages that were often anti-colonial. Check out my favorites below.
National Museum of Zimbabwe
National Museum of Zimbabwe
National Museum of Zimbabwe
National Museum of Zimbabwe
 

Newlands Curio Market
After the National Museum, my guide, plus his friend who had joined the adventure, took me to a huge lot full of Kombis. Jam packed in one of the vans playing lively music, we went to Newlands Curio Market (I expect to dissect the term ‘curio’ later). Imagine almost two blocks full of beautiful crafts and stone sculptures. My mission was to purchase a few others – yes they would be heavy, but worth the weight. I bought three. One is call ‘shared vision,’ one is ‘four sisters’ and one is two faces joined (in a kiss I discovered way after I bought it) - ‘lovers?’ They are beautiful. I bought a backpack to try to hustle them under the radar through my flight home without the fifty pounds of weight in stone becoming an issue. (It worked by the way – a great tip for travelers like me who are greedy for culture and crafts from the homeland. Put the heaviest of your precious items in a well - padded back pack and walk on through!)

The kombi yard also had a market with women selling everything under the sun. I say it once and I say it again. There is no physical difference between African – Americans and Africans on the Continent. Light brown, dark brown – it doesn’t matter. No one, I mean no one, knew that I was not from Zimbabwe. One man even asked my guides why I kept taking pictures at scenes that were for him, and as he expected for me, so commonplace. I was trying to drink as much of the scenery as possible – especially in the Kombi yard and market. Men playing pool in the open air at outdoor tables. Women dressed in gaily colored cloth wrappers selling treats. People eating plates of lunch, complete with greens. Everything. I liked Zimbabwe. But one must be careful. I was warned on more than one occasion by Brother Joe and my guides to not take photos near certain government buildings. Anyone who did so would be detained or shot. Of course I immediately complied.

Interior View of a Kombi
At the Kombi Yard
Men Playing Pool at the Kombi Yard
Market at the Kombi Yard
 
At the Kombi Yard
At the Kombi Yard

After the market, we returned back to the Kombi yard to get to Chapungo Sculpture Garden. This is when we ran into trouble. We got into one van so full, (and the driver so greedy for fares perhaps?) that even at full capacity, he stopped to pick up three more young men. They actually stood up on the back of the van, standing on the back rim, holding on to the back seats. I was in the front seat and saw how fast the driver was going. He raced over one pothole. Bump. Pothole two. Double bump. Pothole Three. Triple bump, expletive from the driver and then a completely mangled flat tire. We ended up stuck on the side of the road with no taxis in site and the kombis racing by, packed full of riders. Yikes! We walked for a while (admittedly a long while, but I tried not to complain) and finally a man with a driving school car gave us a ride for a small fee. We arrived at the sculpture garden at dusk. Little monkeys were chasing each other all around. The sculptures were large and magnificent. Many Shona sculpture artists have their studios here. I met one of the co-founders, a dynamic sister with beautiful locs, just as they were leaving. I got just a taste and a brief interview with one of the carvers before we fortunately got a taxi back to the Pinkas’ home. I walked into the kitchen just before Yvonne was beginning to think that Clifford had lost me in the city. I enjoyed one last home cooked meal with the family and left for Cape Town the next afternoon. I met some very dynamic people in Harare and I will definitely be back again within the next two years.
Chapungo Sculpture Garden
Chapungo Sculpture Garden
   
Chapungo Sculpture Garden
  

2 comments:

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  2. Hi Maya,

    I am in the process of completing my application and wanted to ask you a few questions about your project proposal and how you constructed it. Please reach out if you have a spare moment.

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