Video of an Historical Exhibition of Traditional Shona Sculptures by the late Jonathan Matimba

The Trust was instrumental in re-discovering a unique collection of works by the late Jonathan Matimba who was one of the three most famous and influential stone and wood carvers of the 1950s and ‘60s in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. The works are of great significance and of national historical interest. The Trust was proud and privileged to display, for the time ever, these rare early pieces of art for public enjoyment.

Please enjoy a video of the official opening of the Exhibition that took place on 13th August 2018 where Mrs Edone Ann Logan, Chair, welcomed everyone and Dr Jonathan Zilberg, Associate Research Scholar at The Centre of African Studies, University of Illinois, gave an exhilarating talk on the history of Nyanga sculpture.

The Trust would sincerely like to thank Mr Iain McDonald and Ms Shelley Hood for producing this excellent video.

La Rochelle – Events and news – May 5, 2017

Please email reservations@larochellecentre.com or call us on (04) 497213 / 0714 610 803 to find out costs and more detail.
In 2016 La Rochelle hosted a number of events such as bird courses, vintage car rally, art retreat, jazz evening, food and wine pairings and educational workshops. Here are a few recent photos from some of those events:

World’s View Report – December 2016

With grateful thanks to Gill Honeyman and her wonderful little team up at Worlds View, for all the work you all do there, making the site most enjoyable and much appreciated!
Gill’s report follows:-

An all-time, record breaking month for the View with over 1500 visitors, mostly over the festive season – 300 visitors on Christmas Day, 200 on Boxing Day and 250 over New Year.
The rains have been extremely heavy with torrential downpours and due to the volume of traffic coming onto site the parking area has been turned into a quagmire.
We have dug a 2m wide contour ridge at the base of Nyamutoro (to the rear of the sculptor’s gazebo) which has diverted most of the run-off from the mountain and hopefully we shall now be able to restore our once beautifully lawned parking area.

We still face serious problems at the entrance gate as the culvert was removed by Nyanga Rural Council when they graded the road in 2015 and there is just nowhere for the run-off from the road to go. We battle daily to remove the red soil/mud collecting at the gate and have opened new mitre drains to divert the water down into the lakes. The Rural Council will be contacted in the new year.
We are grateful to the Stead Family from Connemara (Plot No 41) who organised a ‘Carols by Sunset’ on Christmas Eve, the grandchildren playing flute, trumpet and sax. ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ will never be the same again! The rain held off and although our numbers were small it was an extremely enjoyable evening and hopefully next year, with better advertising, attendance will be higher.

The Hydrangeas have been magnificent, as they always are at this time of year, and we have had a lot of enquiries from our visitors as to where they could purchase these plants. An approach was made to Valhallah Nursery in Juliasdale who specialise in hydrangea and azalea and a mutually beneficial agreement was reached. We now have a plant sales area and sales are going really well, after only 2 weeks we are in profit by $83. We have since decided to stock other seasonal plants that grow on site and we are sure that our ‘Plant Sale’ section will continue to do well.

We have purchased some more lovely books for our small library and they have been very well received and read by visitors, mainly those taking shelter in the gallery when it rains. A lawnmower has also been purchased so we no longer have to borrow from No 12. Strimmer repairs continue!
Our ‘sign writer’ has been busy and painted a number of new metal signs: ‘NO FIRES’, ‘PLEASE TAKE FOOD WASTE HOME – BEWARE BABOONS!’, and others that will help visitors find their way around more easily.
Picnic table number four is near completion and the first three have been commissioned. All constructed from local stone and fitting in well with the natural surroundings.

Visitors enjoying sundowners at one of the new picnic tables.
Plans have been drawn for the extension and refurbishment of the staff accommodation block. It is our intention to build on another room to accommodate caretaker No. 2 and to completely refurbish the toilet and shower room. A covered courtyard will also be incorporated and a wood burning stove purchased to upgrade the kitchen facilities. Some roof repairs to the existing building are required and repairs and repainting to existing walls – inside and out. Although we expect a seasonal decline in the number of visitors over the next few months we should still have enough in the kitty to take us to roof height, until the Easter rush of guests.
The art gallery is attracting much interest and most visitors are surprised and impressed to find an art gallery on the top of a mountain! We even received an approach from an artist from Harare who enquired if he could hold an exhibition of his own work in the gallery. Our very grateful thanks go to Val Cameron of Juliasdale for her donation of a large pastel of a scene in the Fox Rock area and a smaller one of wild flowers. Val is a professional and very accomplished artist and we are extremely proud to have her work in our collection. They are presently in Harare being framed. Our thanks also to Cherrie Stead for two beautiful water colours that she has donated, they have been framed and now grace the gallery walls as part of our permanent collection. We are still encouraging local Nyanga artists to bring us their work for display/sale. One painting was sold in December with a 10% commission being paid to WV.
The visitors book continues to be a joy to read, many compliments about the staff and their friendly and welcoming reception, the well maintained grounds, the toilet facilities and of course our magnificent scenery. A visitor from Scotland wrote ‘Thanks to the people who donated this land, developed this land and now lovingly maintain it. Without you this place would not exist. A real gem on planet earth. The people of Zimbabwe should be proud of you all. Well done the National Trust of Zimbabwe’.
We still await a visit from Rob Burrett who will be able to give us advice on recently found ruins. We are anxious to promote the area using these easily accessible sites not only as an added attraction, but to emphasise the cultural history of this region. We appreciate the problems Rob faces with financing such a visit and the limitations on his valuable time, perhaps if there is someone else who is equally qualified and able to make the trip it would be most beneficial to get their advice sooner than later. Its over two years since we found the ruins and need to get this project moving. Any ideas?
My personal thanks to Matirina, who took leave from his job to be on site throughout the busy festive season, keeping everything running smoothly, efficiently and profitably, and to Luke and Arthur for the tremendous amount of work they put in keeping the site neat and clean as well as attending to our many visitors and …….. collecting the money!

 

Fort Gomo Kadzamu – Spirit of Place Statement

Sit in a small stone fort located at the top of a gomo (hill in Shona) that is typical of the many fortifications in the eastern half of Zimbabwe. Part of the Nyanga Cultural Tradition these lowland forts were associated with the Shona Dynasties that postdate the Great Zimbabwe Culture. Be thrilled when you see the small wall enclosing the summit with a door with a stone lintel.
Walk over broken granite terrain and through wisps of Old Man’s Beard Lichen Usnea hanging from the branches of the Msasa trees Brachystegia spiciformis in the pristine Miombo woodland.
Marvel at the 360 degree views from the summit and enjoy your picnic under the cooling the tree cover and be in awe of the cultural heritage of the settlement that probably dates to the 17th to the 19th centuries A.D

Sebakwe Poort – Spirit of Place Statement

Meander through an area of natural and unspoiled woodland comprising a large number of species of indigenous trees, including many fine specimens of several different Acacia species and watch the Sebakwe River flowing through the Sebakwe Poort (gorge): it is an impressive sight.

Mubukuwne – Spirit of Place Statement

Stand just a few kilometres south of Bulawayo City centre and soak up the atmosphere and imagine the area as it was over 100 years ago, with ox wagons and their teams of oxen outspanned in the dry red dust and now final resting place of some of the country’s earliest settlers. What a rugged life they must have led, in the early days of this great country; travelling north to discover more, crossing rivers, valleys, hills and rocky outcrops in their quest for adventure and a yearning to finally settle in this bountiful land. Stand still awhile and cast your thoughts back in time and remember all the brave souls who adventured forth into unknown territory to found this great nation.
Tom Meikle bought Mabukuwene in1937 and often rode there with his daughters. He built the walls around the property, cleared the underbrush, and set the historic wrought-iron gates in the gate posts. When he died in1939 he was buried in a gentle sloping granite outcrop under the spreading arm of a giant wild fig tree. The arms of the fig tree throw a chequered pattern of sunlight and shadow on the granite. Members of his family joined him in later years. Other kopjies and ranks of bushveld trees ring the area and immediately around there is a paddock of golden grass. It was transferred to the National Trust in 1978 and subsequently the grave area was transferred back to the Meikles Trust in 1995.
Mabukuwene is a lovely place, restful and secluded where a person can sit in the sun, relax and think and enjoy 12 hectares of indigenous trees and plants set in an unspoilt area of kopjes with their distinctive pink hue. Stand on an outcrop and admire the view from 1442 meters (4730 feet) above sea level that affords a 360 º view point of the area.
Explore the two small areas of gardens, a plantation of jacaranda trees along an originally proposed drive-way, short lengths of dry-stone walling previously dividing the property into paddocks, a roofless ruined house (the barn) and a circular, stone-walled thatched-roofed lookout on the highest rocks. One of the small garden areas is the site of the grave and the other surrounds the house and lookout point in the centre of the property.
Discover some 80 different species of indigenous trees including some exceptionally fine specimens of Ficus ficus sonderi and EuphorbIa ingens. When in flower they attract a wide variety of birds typical of the habitat, nearly 100 species have been recorded such as Natal Francolin, Guinea Fowl and Spotted Eagle Owls. Look out for small mammals such as squirrels and dassies scampering around in the bush.
And so the wilderness called Mabukuwene continues, emphasizing the preservation of the indigenous flora and fauna and cultural heritage of the area.

Murawah’s Hill – Spirit of Place Statement

One can almost hear the chattering of little children and the wisdom-filled murmuring of the elders as they sit beneath the trees and on the surrounding rocks in dappled sunlight sharing hunting stories and waiting for the night fires to light up before an evening under the stars; exchanging ancient traditional lore and planning the next day’s hunt.
This is an important place and is respected for the wealth of history it holds, albeit unwritten and perhaps mostly based on assumption and imagination, as there is no record remaining from when the Hill was inhabited by the Ziwa 200-400 A.D., apart from the pottery findings and other remnants from history.
Rich in birdlife and carrying an abundance of indigenous trees, as well as butterflies and other insects Murawah’s Hill is a small sanctuary and natural memorial to the tribe’s people now lost in history.
We owe it to their memory to preserve it and respect it as they would appreciate it.

Rhodes Nyanga Historical Exhibition – Spirit of Place Statement

Join the many people that visit an astonishing public display of ancient manuscripts, photographs and other exhibits of interest relating to Nyanga and persons and events connected with its history and development. In addition there is memorabilia depicting the life and times of early Zimbabwe, from the local indigenous tribe’s people, through to the white settlers and together with the art, culture and traditions of this beautiful area.
The exhibits are housed in a historical building known as Rhodes Stables where once part of one of Sir Cecil John Rhodes’ country residences. The stables were built in 1897 and used for the stabling of horses and mules during the several visits which he made to Nyanga during 1897 and 1900.
Come and enjoy an insight into life as it was then.

Worlds View – Spirit of Place Statement

Sit above the clouds and birds flying and gaze down from one of the highest points in the land of Zimbabwe (approx 2,300 metres), across the central plateau almost a kilometre below. The view is of a land of mystery, of peace and of extreme beauty and it seems endless. As you gaze across the landscape spreading out in all directions beneath you, imagine a time before time when no human being was here. Move on through history to think of the earliest inhabitants of our beautiful country, the ‘Bushmen’, living life off the abundance of nature in surely what must easily be one of the most beautiful landmarks of Zimbabwe.
Today the distant huts, hills and hamlets are bright and baked in the midday heat, then fade as the setting sun behind them throws its blue dusty shadows as it journeys to lands to the west when lights begin to twinkle and the chill of the highvelt evening, and the ever present wind sighing through the wattles and pines around you sound like the sea but you are in a land locked country.
Your eyes are overwhelmed by beauty at every turn, you tread on the land of forgotten peoples that possibly inhabited the area in the 14th and 15th centuries, you can feel their ancestors and see the cultural history in the forts, stone walls, pit structures and square kilometres of massive terraces: all beautifully crafted and utterly intriguing. Everywhere. But built by whom? How? For what: Agriculture? Slave enclosures? Livestock protection? Self defence? Mining?
All these have stood. And fallen. Only one thing is certain, and that is that these questions are not easily answered, and your favourite pet theory is as likely as any other.
As you climb down into the valley in the morning freshness, limbs quivering with exertion and great lungful’s of fresh mountain air drink from cooling streams, feel the cooling breeze dry the sweat on your back and feel the pulse of primal life quicken in your ears and veins.

La Rochelle – Spirit of Place Statement


Experience both the natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of a country estate, and feel the passion held by Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia Courtauld to settle here and literally ‘put down roots’ as the saying goes. The house and grounds are what has made La Rochelle a lasting treasure to be enjoyed in perpetuity by the nation of Zimbabwe and its visitors. It will forever evoke images of a time in history when this very generous titled couple, who combined English ancestry and Italian and Hungarian ancestries as well, adopted not only this country, but also its people and took both to their hearts.
Their public-spirited generosity, and their enduring interest in promoting the various arts, music and culture, as well as a deep desire to improve the welfare of the lower echelons of the population, means that they will always be remembered for their generous largesse towards Zimbabwe even though these contributions were always made very quietly and modestly and never openly and flamboyantly.
Their foresight in donating La Rochelle to the National Trust now enables one to not only spend a weekend or more inside their very home, but also to walk the pathways so lovingly designed and created by Sir Stephen and his massive team of gardeners and planners, and to relax for a while in a haven of peace and beauty and marvel at the extensive collection of rare orchids.
Stop for a while in The Dell, close your eyes, drift away to the late 1950’s era and just pretend that you are one of Sir Stephen’s invited guests for the weekend, the way he would have wanted it to be. Breathe in the scents surrounding you through this beautiful garden and think of Lady Virginia and her kind and generous nature as she busied herself for the day with the local ladies and their knitting and crotchet projects that she funded. Picture in your mind the soft tunes drifting down from the house from piano and violin as the invited musicians ready their instruments for the evening.
Take the time to enjoy this very special home and garden remembering that the Courtauld’s former home is here for all future generations to be able to admire and enjoy.