THE Germany embassy in Harare in partnership with the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo last week unveiled the German Buddy Bear to showcase the Ndebele culture globally.
The Buddy Bear, also known as “Utshomi” (a Ndebele native name for “Buddy”) a project done by Portia Ndlovu, Khumbulani Ncube, Khathazile Mlala and Lackina Zulu from Mahusumani Village in Matobo became the centre of attention when the bear they painted was unveiled. The four will begin a world tour after six months.
Bulawayo historian and veteran author Pathisa Nyathi said the unveiling of the bear would uplift and preserve the Ndebele culture.
“The Buddy Bear will showcase the Ndebele culture, heritage and arts across the world as the culture used to be popular before colonisation, hence there is still need to revitalise the Ndebele visual art,” he noted.
“Buddy Bear travels throughout the world seeking to establish good relations between Germany and other countries.”
Nyathi also said tourists would come to Zimbabwe to visit the Matopo cultural landscape, boosting the national fiscus.
Ambassador Udo Volz said the Buddy Bear expressed diversity in Germany, hence it emphasised the importance of preserving the rich Ndebele culture in hard painting.
“The Ndebele culture is very rich in Zimbabwe, especially in art painting. We thought of taking this beautiful art from Matopo to another dimension and hence the formation of the Buddy Bear,” Volz said.
The Buddy Bear is a 2 meter tall bear sculpture made from fibreglass. It is a symbol of the German capital Berlin, thus being called Berlin Bear.
The Buddy Bear campaign was initiated over 20 years ago by the German Foreign Minister and made the Buddy Bears known around the world as ambassadors of a liberal and cosmopolitan Germany.
The idea of the Buddy Bear being painted by women from Matobo was a result of the German Embassy Harare, My Beautiful Home (MBH)/Combu Indlu Ngobuciko (CIN) competition which started in 2013. Those whocame up trumps were given an opportunity to work on the bear. From painting huts and clay pots, the quartet were tasked to paint a life-size bear, a challenge they relished.
The project was done under the guidance of Talent Kapadza and Sikhulile Hlongwane as the facilitator and co-ordinator for the Buddy Bear Project.