V&A Joy from Africa


Although bead-and-wire artist Bishop Tarambawamwe has lived in Cape Town for 18 years, Rusape in Zimbabwe, where he grew up, is still considered home. The town lies along the main road between Harare and Mutare, the provincial capital of Manicaland, the same province in which Rusape is located. 

Its name was derived from rusapwe, the Shona word for ‘never dries’, after it was established near the banks of the Rusape River, which flows into the Rusape Dam, built to irrigate the sugar-cane fields in the area. Bishop grew up in a village outside the town, and got to know the river while looking after his grandfather’s animals.

Manicaland province is filled with many picturesque sites worth a visit. Mutarazi Falls, which drops into the Honde Valley in two tiers, makes quite an impression, as does Birchenough Bridge, designed by the structural designer of the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia. “It’s really amazing when compared to the other everyday bridges,” says Bishop of the Zimbabwean landmark that crosses the Save River.

Manicaland’s hot springs, near the diamond fields, are believed to possess mystical healing powers. “And they’re also great for boiling eggs,” laughs Bishop, of “one of the funny things that people do there”.

Chimanimani National Park with its exquisite rolling green mountain ranges is an invitation to the avid hiker, while Mutare’s Osborne Dam is fun for camping, with opportunities for bass fishing, windsurfing, canoeing and birding.

Rusape is 170km from Harare. If Bishop takes the bus from his home in Cape Town, he says it can take two-and-a-half days to get there, but a flight to Harare means just a two-and-a-half hour drive from the airport, or a six-hour bus ride. “It’s a highway from Harare to Rusape,” he says, “but the scenery is beautiful, with a lot of mountains.” 

Return flights to Harare from South Africa cost around R3,000 from Johannesburg, R4,000 from King Shaka International Airport in KZN, and R4,500 from Cape Town. 

Manicaland has a tropical forest climate, thanks to the Eastern Highlands that run along its eastern edge but this means you can expect a lot of rain during a summer visit, and winters can get rather cold. Bishop likes to visit Rusape from August onwards, when the sun can be enjoyed.


A Mastery of Materials
Working with pliable wire and a variety of beads in a myriad of colours, Master Wire and Bead Craft turns simple materials into intricate, considered forms. Creating products from wire is something Bishop says almost all the men he encounters from Zimbabwe were raised “knowing”. “It’s just part and parcel of Zim culture in a way,” he says, jokingly comparing it to people who are born to be soccer players. “But we’ve refined the craft as artists,” he says of his company’s trademark high-end style.

The Story of Paivepo 
‘Paivepo’ is the Shona word used at the beginning of every folktale (almost like ‘once upon a time’). It has been used to name this story-telling totem that so gloriously represents Zimbabwe – a totem decorated with the magnificent flame lily (Gloriosa superba) that is the country’s national flower. “We used to see them everywhere when we were herding cattle,” says Bishop of the bright bloom. “They say the plant is poisonous, but we never knew this as kids. We would play a game with the flower, pulling it from either side. Whoever got the stem would be the winner, and the loser would have to do things like return the cattle from the mountains for three days in a row.”

In the centre of the totem is a beaded replica of the kind of stool one finds in every village home. “It’s a symbol of respect,” says Bishop, “because it’s the chigaro, or stool, for the elder to sit on. If you’re sitting on it, and someone older than you enters the room, you move to sit on the floor so that they can sit on it.”

Above this is a beaded chirongo, a vessel traditionally made from clay to store water or beer. “It’s something I appreciated as a child,” says Bishop. “We’d come back home very thirsty from a day out, and the vase always kept the water cold in the village where there were no fridges.” 

At the pinnacle stands the Zimbabwe Bird, the national emblem that appears on the country’s flag as a stone-carved symbol that is thought to represent the bateleur eagle or African fish eagle – the supposed original totem of the Shona people. The design of the flag’s bird was derived from the soapstone sculptures found in the ruins of the ancient city of Great Zimbabwe, the likes of which have never been discovered anywhere else in the world.



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