Offering New Perspectives On Our World and It’s Cultures

        

The 16th May 2018 marked a momentous occasion for the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) when an event to greet three Old Italian Master paintings, that had been on loan from the Permanent Collection, were returned back from the UK namely:  “Patriarch” and Astronomer” by Paolo Veronese and “The King of Poland being welcomed by the Doge of Venice” by Andrea Piazza. The works are dated from the Late Renaissance to the Baroque. The three artworks are of the zenithal degree and have been an integral part of the NGZ’s Permanent Collection’s lineament of Global Art History.

For the past 21 years the paintings were housed at Eltham Palace, a royal residence from the 14th to the 16th century and the childhood home of King Henry VIII of Tudor. The Palace is located in Greenwich near London and administered by a charity called English Heritage who manage and conserve over 400 historic buildings and sites in the UK. The Tudorian mansion was re-designed to the Modernist tastes of Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia Courtauld when they took up residence in the 1930’s, then twenty years later, in the 1950’s they retired in Zimbabwe.

During the restoration of the Eltham Palace, the Director of Museums and Collections of the English Heritage requested to borrow the three master paintings for display. After years of correspondence, the works finally arrived in London on the 6th of July 1999 from Zimbabwe. They were hung in the Italian Drawing Room where they were originally when Sir Stephen and his wife lived there. The paintings thematically cohering to the eloquence of the space, evoking Renaissance zeal to the mise en scène in which they were housed.

 Eltham Palace

The loan of the artworks made them accessible to new audiences who were able to be inspired, learn and enjoy. Galleries are committed to making their collection widely available to museums and galleries around the world and supporting important exhibitions. Collections are a valuable public resource, reflecting the generosity of past and current donors and public investment in their continued care and development. Borrowing and lending are the lifeblood of gallery outreach programmes, offering new perspectives on our world and its cultures, and the sharing of collections, contributes to their interpretation and increases the benefit they can provide for the public.

The return of these artworks back into the NGZ’s Permanent Collection has a basis of association between a triumvirate of institutions with a common Patron. The benefactor being Sir Stephen Courtauld who was born in the UK in 1883 was a soldier, philanthropist and heir of the English wealthy Courtauld family of textile industrialists. Sir Stephen directed his interests to the advancement of the Arts, not only in the United Kingdom, but all over the world. When Sir Stephen and Lady Virgina retired to Zimbabwe they built a French style tower and house, with Welsh slate roof tiles in the beautiful Imbeza Valley, Penhalonga.

  La Rochelle Country Estate which is now a leading boutique hotel

Throughout the span of his life, as his family before him, he led a life that was inarguably non-conformist and an example of his pursuit for social justice can be seen at La Rochelle. A window at the house has inscribed within it, the names and signatures of scores of revolutionaries who sought abode there, en route to Mozambique during the Second Chimurenga. Arguably, being a military man himself, bequeathing wealth and artwork to what was then the National Gallery of Rhodesia; one marvel’s at the man’s nobility in his dichotomous support of needs of all within that body politic that was all embracing to cultural diversity.

Sir Stephen was a keystone in the establishment of the NGZ. Throughout the inception process, the opening and the development of the institution, Sir Stephen applied great fervour to the functionality of the organization to such a degree he was appointed the Chairman Emeritus until the time of his passing. The couple, who died in 1967 and 1972 respectively, became the first patrons of the gallery and donated La Rochelle to the National Trust of Zimbabwe. In his Will all beneficiary institutions were to freely distribute artworks between themselves for the enjoyment and enrichment of the cultural lives of the Public wherever he donated artworks. His legacy and foresight led to the loan of the paintings to Eltham Palace.

At the ‘welcome home’ reception for the paintings an excited audience gathered, appropriately, in the Courtauld Gallery at the NGZ for the celebrations. The backdrop for the official event was the exquisite painting entitled: “The King of Poland being received by the Doge of Venice” by Andrea Piazza.

“The King of Poland being received by the Doge of Venice” by Andrea Piazza.

The painting captures the King’s festive entry that took place on July 18 1574. The waterscape of the middle ground is festooned with gondolas navigating the Grand Canal as they shift towards the eye to dock before reception by the court and High Society of Venice. The linear perspective of the composition shifts the eye towards the vanishing point, where atop, the Saints watch the events unwrapping below with approval, the veneer in this section establishing the painter’s exquisite application of chiaroscuro wherein the darker tones of the foreground express the aggregation’s earthiness and mortality.

The proceedings began with Mr Raphael Chikukwa, Deputy Director, Chief Curator on behalf of the NGZ welcomed the return of the three Italian masters paintings and acknowledged the presence of the Director of the British Council Mrs S Harvey and all other distinguished guests. He said that this was a unique event in so many ways that started when the Executive Director and himself visited the UK and had the opportunity to meet with the Courthauld Institute then follow through with various discussions until it was agreed that these important artworks be returned to Zimbabwe.

The artworks were originally left to the NGZ by Sir Stephen who also donated a lot of funds to establish and support many institutions in Zimbabwe that included the construction of the NGZ, which we are all enjoying today as Zimbabwean’s. Sir Stephen also donated his entire old masters collection to the NGZ. So I would say he was our biggest philanthropist in this country and for us as the NGZ we were one of the biggest beneficiaries of his donations.  Mr Chikukwa asked for an acknowledgement for the late Sir Stephen and for the legacy that he left behind.

 From left to right: Mr D Scott, Mr R Chikukwa and Mr Roberto Franceschinis

He added that there are a number of philanthropists in the world but Sir Stephen was a rare one whose work can be seen through these paintings. He thanked the NGZ committee for being able to put up such up historic exhibition which also called upon local Zimbabwean artists who took up the call to collaborate and participate by creating works especially to welcome the three paintings home.

He explained how Mrs Lillian Chaonwa, the Conservation Manager went to the UK to personally oversee the packaging and transportation of the paintings from the UK to the Netherlands, then from the Netherlands to Zimbabwe. He said that there is no other person better placed than Mrs Chaonwa to do so and for which she is highly valued at the gallery where she has worked for more than twenty years.   Mrs Chaonwa has also fostered relationships with many galleries around the world such as the Tate Modern and galleries in Uganda. He asked everyone present to give her a big pom pom.

Mr Chikukwa handed over to Mr David Scott, Chairman of the NTZ who took the chance to illustrate the existence and importance of protecting our national heritage. He explained the background, purpose, aims and objectives of the NTZ who protect the seven properties for the future benefit of the people of Zimbabwe and for overseas visitors, with La Rochelle being the flagship property.

 Mr Scott (2nd on the right) addressing the audience

Mr Scott explained that the NTZ conducts tangible and intangible activities and conducts heritage education and other cultural projects. The La Rochelle site has direct links to the artworks being re-housed and exhibited today through the Courtauld family who bequeathed that property to NTZ and who also donated these and many other paintings to the NGZ.  He pointed out that Sir Stephen was knighted in 1958 for his services to Zimbabwe and for his cultural and philanthropic work in Zimbabwe. Sir Stephen gave away an estimated £1m in gifts and money towards helping art, music, education and race relations in Zimbabwe.

Donations included:

Mutare – Queens Hall and Courtauld Theatre, The Bulawayo Theatre; College of Music, Ranche House College, St Michaels Church Harare, Nyatsime College Library, University of Zimbabwe, the establishment of  Kukwanisa Agricultural Training Centre; Rhodes Club Mutare (the first multiracial club in the country, enabling the building of the NGZ through generous financial support and numerous artwork donations, National Museum and bequests to the NTZ and the Zimbabwe Academy of Music.

He said that it is rumoured that discussions about the original ZANU constitution were held at La Rochelle and this theory is supported by the existence of signatures of political figures such as Ndabanigi Sithole and Herbert Chitepo and other nationalists on two special windows at La Rochelle containing hundreds of signatures of people who visited La Rochelle at the time the Courtaulds resided there. Mr Scott then gave a short history of Eltham Palace which is one of the few important medieval royal palaces in England to survive with substantial remains intact. Initially a moated manor house with vast parkland, it was acquired by the future Edward II in 1305. Mr Scott thanked the NGZ for the opportunity to participate in this important exhibition and added he was happy to have been able to provide the historical background of the Exhibition.

The final address was made by Mr Roberto Franceschinis, the Acting Ambassador of Italy, who greeted everyone and started by thanking the NGZ for inviting him to be the Guest of Honour on such an extraordinary occasion, by virtue of the fact that the paintings of which today we celebrate the homecoming, were created by Italian Masters some 400 years ago. They integrate a remarkable collection of old Italian Masters which places the NGZ at the forefront of cultural destinations in the Region, and which we have the privilege to admire here today.

Mr Franceschinis then gave a brief introduction about the three artists:

Paolo Caliari, in art “Il Veronese” (1528-1588) was a late Renaissance painter who soon developed his own taste for a more vivid palette of colors.  According to Gauthier, a French critic of the nineteenth century, Veronese is the greatest colorist that ever lived, greater than Tiziano, Rubens or Rembrandt in his ability to harmonize natural tones to render light without violent contrasts, as opposed to the academic chiaroscuro technique of the time.

After the successful completion of the frescos at Villa Barbaro, a new palace in the outskirts of Venice designed by the renowned architect Palladio, a mature Veronese is commissioned with decorating the Hall of the Grand Council in the Palazzo Ducale. An immense oval named “The triumph of Venice” establishes Veronese as the true beacon of the intellectual progressiveness and civic liberalism that made Venetian society the most culturally advanced at the time, as opposed to the regressive, neo-feudal, moralistic involution that was taking hold across Europe and which would soon disembark at Venice itself to influence his latest years.

Andrea Piazza (1587-1670) was born in Castelfranco, a small town near Venice, was initiated to the art of painting in the city of Venice under the guidance of his uncle Paolo, at the time an accomplished artist himself, who had taken religious orders becoming a Capuchin friar. This was now well into the period of Catholic resurgence, a return to a more conservative religious discipline in response to the Protestant Reformation, a troubled time indeed in Europe ending only at the close of the “Thirty Years War” in 1648. Upon request from his superiors, Friar Cosmo and his nephew Andrea reached the court of the Roman Catholic Emperor Rudolph the II of Augsburg in Germany, where they spent years to glorify with frescos and paintings the eternal beatitude that the Faithful attain in paradise, as opposed to the misery and unyielding suffering of the heretics, among which they included Luther and many others. It is said that the representations were so lively and convincing, not only to achieve the desired effect quite successfully but also to echo all the way to Rome, where the two were finally drawn on the request of the Pope himself. A now mature Andrea became soon known as an excellent painter, and in later years moved first to the court of the Duke of Lorraine in France, where he was knighted in appreciation of his masterly skills, and finally back to the Republic of Venice, where he remained at the service of the Doges, and where, among many others, he realized this extraordinary piece of art.

During his closing he commended Mrs. Doreen Sibanda, Executive Director of the NGZ, together with the Curator Mr. Raphael Chikukwa and staff for their unrelenting commitment to bring such extraordinary pieces of art back where they belong, to mark not the closing of a chapter, but the onset of a new one, dedicated to treasuring these masterpieces as part of this Country’s own history to the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations of Zimbabweans.

He then quoted Brian Bradshaw, a former Executive Director:

“It’s not to be expected that the work of the Gallery will ever be simple, perhaps also it is not to be hoped that it should be so, because art, which blends the Past with the Future into a continually expanding Present, is not of a nature to equip itself with anything less than the least simple of efforts.”

Mrs Lilian Chaonwa gave a vote of thanks the English Heritage Team at Eltham Palace who took such good care of the three paintings and returned them to the National Gallery in a pristine condition.  She also thanked Mrs Samantha Harvey Director of the British Council Zimbabwe who funded the Executive Director and Deputy Director’s trip to the UK which was the beginning of the talks to return the paintings. She also gave special thanks to the NTZ and the Italian Embassy.

  “Astronomer” by Paolo Veronese and Mrs Lilian Chaonwa, Conservation Manager

The Astronomer, wherein a draped man reclines with astrolabe in hand, the countenance on his face bears intrinsic thought and contemplation as a man of that station was classically entailed. The dark and light tones of the composition are rich and the warm colour is radiant, with the texture of the natural distinctly standing apart from the drapery, sharply creased and filling the eye pleasingly with its voluminous appearance.

Of special note are the local artists that responded to the Zimbabwe Meets Italy exhibition in a very short period of time and with such breath-taking results. Down in the Courtauld Gallery were two mixed media pieces from Greg Shaw, along with appropriate artworks from the Permanent Collection including an oil on canvas of “David And The Head Of Goliath” by Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, works by Rashid Jogee and a metal sculpture of David slaying Goliath acquired by the Friends of the Gallery. Upstairs in the South Gallery and along the passage to the PC Gallery were some very creative works by the following artists: Lilian Magodi, Tawana Reza, Clive Mukucha, Progress Nyandoro, Munyaradzi Mazaririe, Munyaradzi Mangate, Anthony Bumhira and Percy Manyonga.

 The Patriot” by Veronese Paolo: Oil on canvas 135 x 104 cm with (left to right) Mr D Scott: Chair NTZ, Mrs S Waterworth: Vice Chair NTZ and Mr Chikukwa: Chief Curator

After the speeches the audience who included members of Government, representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, The Directorate of the National Museum and Monuments of Zimbabwe, representatives of the National Archives of Zimbabwe, the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, The National Trust of Zimbabwe and The British Council of Zimbabwe, artists, cultural practitioners, art lovers and art students began to disburse and enjoy seeing the rare art works on display after being served refreshments.

The NTZ would like to thank the NGZ for providing their technical input into this article.

International Museum Day

The worldwide community of museums will celebrate International Museum Day (MD) on 18 May 2018 coordinated by the International Council of Museums. The event highlights a specific theme that changes every year and that is at the heart of the international museum community’s preoccupations.

The theme chosen for 2018 is “Hyperconnected museums: New approaches, new publics”.

Organised on and around 18 May each year, the events and activities planned to celebrate IMD can last a day, a weekend or a whole week.

Participation in IMD is growing among museums all over the world. In 2017, more than 36,000 museums participated in the event in some 157 countries. This year we are proud to announce that the Trust will be participating in its first IMD. The Rhodes Nyanga Historical Exhibition has produced a poster inviting people to visit Nyanga’s own museum. The poster raises awareness about IMD: that they are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.

We look forward to seeing you at the Museum!

 

Rehousing of Old Master Paintings: Invitation

A year and onescore past, three grandiloquent paintings left the National Gallery of Zimbabwe Permanent Collection on loan, to be housed in the halls of the prodigious Tudorian Eltham Palace in Greenwich, London. Surrounded by a remodeled Art Deco gallery’s, the Palace gave home to these three iconic paintings for a lengthy amount of time and a connection to this exchange exists in the guise of Sir and Lady Courtauld; fierce patrons of the arts and proprietors in the conception, development and establishment of many an art institution, in this particular case, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe!

The three paintings are by two Baroque artists; the first, Paolo Veronese whose two portraits, namely An Astronomer and A Patriarch are dated at the earlier point of this magnificent movement. His works demonstrate a natural subtlety in handling contrasts and a freer play of chiaroscuro is evident, invigorating his figures and creating dimension to their surroundings climatically.

Andrea Piazza is tabulated to the Late Renaissance, his painting The King of Poland received by the Doge of Venice comporting the movement’s daring diarist detailing of prosperousness with rich powerful colour occupying strewn steles that strike balance between the figurative and the formalistic elements of the work.

These paintings have completed a homecoming that has transpired both space and time and it is with great pleasure that the National Gallery of Zimbabwe uncrates and shares the paintings with the Public.

A event shall be officiated to commemorate the return of these artworks home, to the Permanent Collection in which they belong.  An invitation to this event is duly extended:

Wednesday the 16th of May 2018 at 10:00hrs

There shall be a Curatorial Walkabout of this event on that date and conversation around the significance of these works will be conducted.

Award Ceremony: Nyanga Schools ‘Youth Linking Minds Across the Continent’ Cultural Heritage Competition

The Rhodes Nyanga Historical Exhibition (RNHE) was buzzing with excitement early on Sunday 15th April; guests started arriving at 9 am to attend the award ceremony and view the wonderful and informative Museum Exhibits.

As part of the global family of National Trusts (INTO), the National Trust of Zimbabwe (NTZ) participated in a competition entitled ‘Heritage  Education: youth linking minds across the continent’ which was aimed at creating spaces for intercultural learning from various parts of Africa.  Students were invited to submit a short, original video clip showing the world their unique heritage.

The competition was organised in Zimbabwe by the SOLON Foundation represented by Mr Willie Dhlandhlara and RNHE in collaboration with the NTZ and INTO. The response to the competition call was very good with 33 entries submitted.

Mrs Merle Moore (Vice chairman) opened the proceedings by welcoming everyone to the event.

 

             

Mr Dhlandhlara then gave an introduction about Solon’s participation and about the importance of cultural heritage education.  He praised the schools for the content of their videos which he then proceeded to screen the top six winning entries.

Mr David Scott the Chairman of the NTZ then gave a keynote speech about the Trust’s involvement in the competition, its background and acknowledged everyone who had been involved in executing the successful competition. He personally thanked Mrs Edone Ann Logan, Chair RNHE for her dedication to the project.

The prize-giving was conducted by Mr Scott, Mrs Edone Ann Logan and Mr Dhlandhlara. First prize was awarded St. Monica’s High School for their ‘Building a Traditional Hut’ video.

Second prize was awarded to Nyatete Heritage Club for their ‘The Secret of Nyatete Bush’ video.

The three- runner up schools were Nyajezi Primary School, Nyamhuka Primary School and Zuvarabuda Primary School.

          

Mr Willie Dhlandhlara generously donated three books that were presented by Sharon Waterworth to students eager to receive them.

Students and teachers were treated to a super lunch courtesy of Mr W. Dhlandhlara who also provided transport as well.

A big thank you goes to the team at RNHE for organising the award ceremony and thanks also to Shirley Scott, Lin Goncalves, Jean Goncalves and Sharon Waterworth for taking and supplying the photographs.

Everyone present at the event was very proud of our young students!  The NTZ would like to thank everyone for participating in such an exciting and interesting competition that highlighted the fascinating and rich heritage of Africa.

The Helen Hyslop Kopje

World Heritage Day (WHD) is an annual event celebrated on 18 April of each year. It aims to preserve the human heritage and recognize the efforts of all relevant organizations in the field including the National Trust of Zimbabwe (NTZ). World Heritage is the shared wealth of humankind. Protecting and preserving this valuable asset demands the collective efforts of the international community. This day offers an opportunity to raise the public’s awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage and the efforts that are required to protect and conserve it, as well as draw attention to its vulnerability.

The NTZ celebrated WHD at Worlds View with the unveiling of a plaque for Helen Hyslop who is a very special person.

The celebratory event took place on a kopje (hill) at an altitude of over 2,000 metres, one of the highest points in Zimbabwe, where the escarpment drops 600 metres to the plain below.  Helen’s plaque sits proudly above the clouds and birds flying.

                 

                                                                                The Helen Hyslop Kopje

As you can see the view from the summit is one of peace and of extreme beauty and it seems endless.

David Scott, Chairman, mentioned in his speech of the huge contribution that Helen has made to the success of the NTZ over the 25 years that she has been involved and she still continues to be an active council member.

Left to Right: Panganai, Michael Hoggard, David Scott, Gill Honeyman and Sharon Waterworth   

Helen joined the NTZ in 1993 and became a member of the Executive Council in 2003.  She was Chair of the Rhodesia Association of University Women (1970 -1980). One of her major local achievements, at that time, with other groups was the lobbying for separate assessment for tax of female spouses in 1977. Helen was a regular member of International Federation of University Women s Council in Geneva  promoting graduate women’s and feminist rights over that period. The University was established in 1919 and nearly 100 years later it continues to advocate for women’s rights, equality and empowerment through the access to quality secondary and tertiary education, and training up to the highest levels. The goal is for 100% of girls and women worldwide to achieve an education beyond primary school. Helen is an alumnus of University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.

It was with great disappointment that Helen was unable to attend the event. She expressed her deepest thanks and appreciation for the honour and recognition.

A vote of appreciation was given to Gill Honeyman, Chair of World’s View, and to her hard working team for organising the event and for keeping Worlds View looking so stunning in a very challenging environment!

A big thank you to Shirley Scott, Lin Goncalves and Jean Goncalves for being the photographers!

Celebrating World Heritage Day: 18th April

World Heritage Day (18 April 2018)  

World Heritage Day is an annual event celebrated on 18 April of each year. It aims to preserve the human heritage and recognize the efforts of all relevant organizations in the field. In 1982, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) announced, 18 April as the “World Heritage Day”, approved by the General Assembly of UNESCO in 1983, with the aim of enhancing awareness of the importance of the cultural heritage of humankind, and redouble efforts to protect and conserve the human heritage.

World Heritage is the shared wealth of humankind. Protecting and preserving this valuable asset demands the collective efforts of the international community. This special day offers an opportunity to raise the public’s awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage and the efforts that are required to protect and conserve it, as well as draw attention to its vulnerability.

Diversity and inclusion at Rhodes Nyanga Historical Museum, Zimbabwe

The National Trust of Zimbabwe (NTZ) is proud to say that it is listening and responding to the changing needs of its visitors. Realising that diversity and intangible cultural heritage is being lost and the world is becoming poorer in culture and wiping away the traces of history and local distinctiveness the NTZ decided to start working to keep it alive, protect and promote it.

Over the past few years, at one of our sites in particular, the displays at the Rhodes Museum have expanded and become more inclusive to the rich cultural diversity in Zimbabwe.   There is a now permanent display of early Manyika culture along with pictures and stories associated with renowned Tribal Chiefs and various people who have played a significant part in the country’s history.  Traditional stone sculptures, pottery and woven mats are also a feature of the Museum.

In 2015 the Museum undertook an innovative, experimental pilot project for school children to re-discover their living traditions and identify their cultural roots.  The project was drawn up using guide lines from a project Uganda, adapting the details to the Zimbabwean context. The successful ‘Cultural Heritage Education Project’, championed by Mrs Edone Ann Logan Chairperson of the Museum, resulted in a proven blueprint for cultural heritage education management that can be replicated in other schools countrywide.  The project mentioned won a special award at the 17th Conference of INTO in Bali in September 2017.

The Museum has produced several heritage booklets including: Traditional Leadership and Shona Culture and in 2016 published a book entitled “Nyanga’s Rich Heritage’ (Khami Press, Bulawayo).  The book was co-edited by Mrs Edone Anne Logan and Mr Robert Burrett, Archeologist and Historian. The book contains information on the many and varied aspects of the rich natural and social heritage of the area, and through knowledge and interest encourage a sense of pride and a wish to preserve this heritage.   It is the authors hope that the book, which includes many historical black and white photographs, will serve as a historical reference for those interested in Nyanga – particularly the early pre-history period. Proceeds from sales of the booklet are generating funds for the Museum where it is on sale.

The Museum Committee, along with Marshall Nyanhanda, the Curator,  continually work hard to organize various exhibitions that have included traditional customs of indigenous people portrayed by displays of relevant foods, tools, implements, and musical instruments.  And, after making a very determined effort, last month committee members achieved the completion of the ‘Time Line Project’ which depicts salient historical events related to Zimbabwe during the period from BC to 1980.

The NTZ is actively encouraging schools to visit heritage sites in their area and experience hands-on traditional crafts, and most importantly, research their own family histories, collect stories from their grandparents, and find their own identities within their ethnic groups.

The NTZ will be celebrating World Heritage Day with the following two events (details of which will be posted after the event):

–              The presentation of the inaugural Annual NTZ Heritage Award in Harare and

–              The unveiling of a plaque at Worlds View for a long standing, very valuable and dedicated NTZ Council member

The NTZ believes that Nations prosper from their diverse heritage.

 

 

 

Update on La Rochelle Organic Herb Project

The NTZ is part of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) which is a non-governmental group founded in 2007. INTO was established to promote the conservation and enhancement of the natural and cultural heritage of all nations for the benefit of the people of the world. INTO has close links with organizations such as: UNESCO, UNEP, ICOMOS, IUCN and Europa Nostra.

Currently, INTO represents about 55 million individual members and countless millions of visitors to sites and properties across more than 25 counties.  INTO are actively involved in various initiatives including conserving and enhancing existing built resources, most notably by the viable re-use of historic and older buildings, greening of existing building stock, and reinvestment in older and historic communities and managing land in a sustainable way.

Members of INTO own and manage many farming properties across the globe. The organisation encourages and supports the conservation and preservation of natural resources, heritage breeds and heirloom species, heritage farming structures, traditional rural landscapes, and the use of traditional farming and cultural practices.

INTO Sustainable Farms brings together National Trust farming properties across the globe. By exchanging knowledge through INTO Sustainable Farms, other National Trust farms and the wider community will learn about food and fibre production whilst concurrently supporting the conservation of natural and heritage resources.

Farmers today are under pressure to meet the demands of a rapidly growing global population whilst operating in increasingly challenging environmental conditions. It is more important than ever to ensure both food security and environmental sustainability not only for our generation, but generations to come. To achieve food security whilst safeguarding ecosystem stability, there must be a widely shared appreciation of agriculture as a multifunctional strategic land use that can provide: nutritious food, rural development and employment, environmental management, and the sustaining of cultural heritage of agrarian communities.

We are very pleased to announce that INTO Farms have just posted details about our organic herb project at La Rochelle on their website. Please see the article below.

 

La Rochelle Country House

Thank you.

 

Tackling Aliens and Increasing Biodiversity

Mabukuwene is one of seven National Trust of Zimbabwe (NTZ) properties. The twelve hectare site comprises of three separate plots that were purchased and consolidated by the successful businessman Mr. Thomas Meikle, which were given, by his daughter, to the NTZ in 1979.  One portion of the property has since been returned to the Thomas Meikles Trust (TMT) as this section contains the Meikles family cemetery and the main infrastructure.

The property is situated about five kilometres south of Bulawayo City centre. It is a tranquil place and consists of indigenous trees and plants set in an un-spoilt area of kopjes whose distinctive pink hue distinguishes it from other rocky environments in and around Bulawayo. Mabukuwene means ‘high point’ and there is a ‘look-out’ built upon a rocky outcrop 1,422 m above sea level that once afforded a 360º view point of the area (sadly much of the view has since been hidden by trees and residential development). The property has a long social heritage that extends back from at latest 250,000 years to the early colonial era. This history is represented as archaeological sites, old village remains, rock paintings and various stone and brick-built structures.

Over a decade ago the NTZ was alerted to the fact that there had been a serious invasion by an alien plant species called  Lantana camara which had developed into a veritable forest and threatening the indigenous plant species at Mabukuwene. In Zimbabwe its common name is ‘Cherrypie’ or ‘Tickberry’.  Originally from Central America Lantana is an invasive shrub that can grow up to 4m high with numerous square branches with hooked spines. When scrambling on other trees it can reach heights of up to 15m.

The lime green bushes are all Lantana smothering the indigenous vegetation

The fruit has many berries that ripen a purple-black. Each contains a seed and in flush a single large bush can yield up to 12 000 seeds. The plant has a short taproot and a mat of many shallow side roots.   The flower colour may be red, purple, pink, with yellow centre, salmon, orange, pure yellow, white etc. sometimes the inner flowers a different colour from the outer. We certainly see a great variety of colours in Zimbabwe.

Lantana camara Photo: Bart Wursten

Lantana spreads both by seeds (a food favoured by small animals and birds) as well as layering where horizontal stems take root when in contact with moist soil. Seeds can remain viable in the soil for a decade or more. This species often forms impenetrable thickets that rapidly takes over and out-competes indigenous vegetation. It becomes an aggressive invader of disturbed and overgrazed areas, it is extremely difficult to eradicate. Simply cutting it down is effectively a waste of time as it coppices and the area is left in a worst position.

It’s ousting of indigenous plants has a negative impact on various bird and insect species which are dependent on specific host plants. Lantana has been nominated as among 100 of the “World’s Worst” invaders on the Global Invasive Species Database. In Zimbabwe it is declared as a noxious weed under the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27 Section XIII). It can be poisonous to both livestock and children.

As part of its mandate the NTZ desperately wanted to clear the noxious weed from the site.  In 2013 Mr Dave Mason of the Thomas Meikle Trust (TMT) and Malcolm Ross, a local resident expressed interest in assisting with a clearing project. In 2014 the NTZ managed to find a small amount of money to start clearing the Lantana on a small scale and then in 2015 the TMT agreed to finance the clearing project. Work was stepped up and clearing started in earnest and the Lantana extending from the main gate away to the distant boundaries was cut back to about 30 cm above ground level and left in small piles for burning. Permission to carry out a controlled burn by the local fire brigade was granted by the Environmental Management Agency and Bulawayo City Council. Local residents were informed of the burning, as well as the Town Clerk and the Head of Parks.

Burning stimulates further Lantana seed germination so the emerging seedlings that arrived after the rains had to be removed by hand. Constant vigilance will be needed for many years to come to ensure that all emerging seedlings are uprooted and burnt. Unfortunately there is no quick solution. As the plants regenerate the larger ones were treated with a selective chemical to kill them off.

           

Lantana regrowth after the burn                                  Piles of cut Lantana

                                  

Controlled burn of cut Lantana                                    Post burn

After seeing such an improvement at the site the TMT agreed to continue the clearing exercise in 2016 for which the NTZ were very grateful for. Fortuitously also for the NTZ, Busani Bafana one of the Board members at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Charles Wawn of Eco Logical Safaris and Travel and Hylton Price of Halsted’s kindly offered to assist and a small working party/committee was established. During the course of the year Lantana was re-cleared from the central area and from the really badly infested hills on the west side and from a section of the Meikles area along the north side of the road way.

 

The cleared entrance roadway                             Entrance with Wrought-iron gates

The NTZ would like to commend Mr Mason and the Meikles staff for clearing out most of the litter that was thrown in the bushes along the entrance road.

Several of the stone walls that had collapsed in a number of places, one section fell down after a 25 mm rainstorm, were rebuilt.

     

  Sections of collapsed stone walls

A new cement stone wall was built and the historic wrought-iron gate moved to its current location. The main entrance wall was repaired: it was seriously leaning over (being supported with gum poles).

       

One of the restored stone walls                             Leaning Main Entrance Wall

Fortunately, in 2017, Meikles continued to fund the clearing of the Lantana and the team started with the outside of the gardens along with the clearing of a 4 metre width fire guard (from the fence) both inside and outside of the property.  In October when the wind and temperatures conditions were right, the fire brigade carried out another controlled burn of the cut Lantana. During the whole clearing exercise other invasive species like Mexican Sunflower were also removed. Happily the Prickly Pear is being destroyed by cochineal bug, interesting to see a natural biological–control process in action.

This year we are delighted to say that the clearance of the Lantana along the perimeter fence was finally completed after many grueling months of hard work and that the Lantana, within the rocky areas, that re-grew (following the rains) will be sprayed with herbicides.

The NTZ would like to express its sincere gratitude to TMT, in particular to Dave Mason, for continuing to fund the clearing exercise and for all their assistance at the site. The clearing of the Lantana cannot be over stated enough. The NTZ would also like to extend its appreciation to the working party consisting of Busani Bafana, Charles Wawn, and Hylton Price whom worked tirelessly often under difficult circumstances.  We are also very grateful to Halstead’s for donating equipment such as gloves, boots, refuse bags and various tools.

The project has led to the NTZ working with new people and stakeholders and we are enjoying the relationships that have been formed and very proud of the significant progress that has been made. The clearing has enhanced the beauty of the site and visitor experience and most importantly the removal of Lantana is leading to the restoration of the property’s natural biological diversity.

 

The NTZ acknowledges Busani Bafana for supplying most of the photographs.

 

 

 

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Sir Stephen and Lady Virgina 

Pastal Circa 1963

 

In 1890 Virginia Periano family moved to London from Romania where she received a convent education.  Rebellious and unorthodox, while still a teenager Virginia had a large snake tattooed down the front of her right leg, a shocking choice for a convent schoolgirl to make during the Edwardian era!   Her marriage to the aged Italian Count Spinoza was annulled by the Vatican and on 20 August 1923 she married Major Stephen Courtauld at Fiume in Italy and after living in Etham Palace in England  she ended up living in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) . Together Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia Courtauld built La Rochelle estate, comprising of 108 ha , in 1951 as a retirement home, and donated it to the National Trust of Zimbabwe in 1970.

 

Sir Stephen and Lady Virgina standing outside La Rochelle by the formal pond

Circa 1963

 

On 16 June 1954 Stephen and Virginia became citizens of Rhodesia and over the next 13 years their major achievements included the funding of the construction of buildings for:

–           The Courtauld Theatre, Mutare (1955)

–           The Queen’s Hall, Mutare (1957)

–           The National Gallery, Harare (1958)

–           The Rhodes Club, Mutare (1961)

–           The auditorium of what is now the Zimbabwe College of Music, Harare (1962)

–           Kukwanisa Farm School, Nyanga (1964).

In their unobtrusive quest for a just and non-racial political dispensation in their adopted country the Courtaulds were also the main sponsors of the Capricorn Society Africa, a pressure movement that sought to improve  relations between races in the British-administered countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

Virgina, with her kind and generous nature, had a deep desire to improve the welfare of the women in the rural areas and so she established a ‘Homecraft Club’ on the property where she taught needlework, embroidery, cooking and domestic science.  The women were able to sell their arts and crafts and for the first time financially support their families.   Her important contribution was made quietly and modestly, with sincere humility and she improved the lives of many African women over the course of several years.