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Ndebele culture paintings beautify Berlin buddy bear

Story by Yolanda Moyo

A German buddy bear which mirrors the friendship and diversity between Zimbabwe and Germany has been unveiled in Bulawayo.

The two-metre bear made of fibre glass was unveiled at the Bulawayo National Gallery, decorated by women from Matobo with colourful Ndebele culture paintings.

The painting of the bear is multi-faceted as it celebrates the Ndebele culture, while at the same time showcasing the Germany culture.

German Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Udo Volz says the buddy bear is a symbol of friendship between the two countries.

“The painting has a beautiful expression of art from Matobo. The significance of the buddy bear expresses the diversity and friendship in other countries,” he said.

The buddy bear is known as ‘Utshomi’ and is also meant to enhance social cohesion.

“The project is very critical in our culture as it preserves the Ndebele painting culture which was fading away slowly. Having the Ndebele culture painted on such a bear which can been seen by various people is a good thing for us as people who work with the Matobo women, as we are optimistic of more people locally and internationally coming to the district to view the paintings by the Matobo women,” said historian, Phatisa Nyathi.

Director National Art Gallery, Silenkosi Moyo said, “Projects and collaborations such as these play a great role in enhancing social cohesion and integration, which is a key tenet of the National Development Strategy 1. So this buddy bear project is about commemorating our Ndebele culture and other cultures beyond our communities and countries. Preserving our culture ensures that we pass on that which defines us to the next generation.”

The buddy bear campaign is a 20- year-old initiative of the German foreign ministry, with buddy bears known around the globe as ambassadors of a liberal and cosmopolitan Germany.

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