Mbare is the oldest African suburb in Harare with several prominent figures originating from the suburb, but the location is still largely viewed as a haven for criminals.
BY WELLINGTOM ZIMBOWA
Among those that grew up in Mbare are ministers Hebert Mrerwa and Webster Shamu.
But for all its grand mix of sons and daughters, the politically-charged suburb that houses the famed Stodart Hall, an in-transit stop for all fallen national heroes on their way to the national shrine, one can be forgiven for thinking Mbare is a squatter camp.
Save for a number of top-of-the- range vehicles including a Mercedes Benz Formatic and a VW ranger truck that are a popular sight at Matapi Flats, the dilapidated flats paint a grim picture of how life can take a bad form.
But there is refreshing news for those who are fond of the suburb.
The flexible hands and creative minds of Mbare duo — Warren Maruta and his cousin Bezel Matsika — are determined to paint off the unfavourable picture of Mbare in the minds of many, producing an array of magnificent paintings that celebrate the heroic exploits of some of their own celebrities.
They have no secure jobs, no money, no resources, but they have Mbare at heart.
It is their home, and they want to put the word across.
“There is a prevalent negative impression about Mbare which is associated with gangster life and robberies, yet we are people with so much in life to offer.”
“We have our own heroes here in this generation who have made an impact across Zimbabwe such as dancehall musicians Kinna and Killer T and I have decided to play my part in honouring them through my drawings as they are flying the Mbare flag high,” said 34-year-old Maruta, while working on a drawing of Kinna, on one block of Matapi Flats.
Kinna, whose real name is Maliya Jini, is fast becoming a household name in dancehall music circles, with the 22-year-old vying with Killer T (Kelvin Kusikwenyu,) of the Makarova Gunners hit song, for the coveted Mr Mbare status.
The two, despite having no solid art training, have proved their mettle at drawing, gaining public marvel, including that of top artists such as Jah Prayzah, who could not resist a video shoot for one of his songs in front of the graffiti on the flats.
The youthful residents have formed various voluntary organisations such as David House Family and Jexious Club to spur development in the area.
Determined to safeguard their own wellness as a community, the youths of the suburb through the organisations are cleaning toilets and collecting rubbish because the city council has not been doing enough. They mobilised money to buy detergents and are taking turns to clean toilets.
They also cut grass and are involved in other anti-littering exercises to keep mosquitoes and snakes at bay while helping avert potential health disasters such as cholera and typhoid outbreaks.
To identify talent, they organise dancehall bashes. Sometimes they bring together Mbare artistes and those from neighbouring suburbs.They also sponsor local junior teams, Jexious and 14 Arts Junior teams.
According to Masika and Maruta, their paintings explore life around Mbare, hence the natural appeal to locals.
Some are inspired by Rastafarianism with one depicting Rastafarians’ smoking dagga (mbanje) with an inscription “respect Rasta” while the other one also features President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe national flag.
Simbarashe Chamachimwe (21), the sponsor of the current drive to immortalise Mbare’s upcoming heroes said poverty and a sense of isolation pushed them to work together in a bid to change their lives.
“It pains us to see that most of the youth have nothing, despite some of us having passed with flying colours in schools,” said Chamachimwe. “l have taken to sponsoring these paintings and for the Kinna portrait, I parted with US$150 including paint and labour costs.”
“Besides supporting and exposing our own talent, residents are happy that the graffiti is bringing colour to the neglected flats which were last repainted ages ago,” he said pointing to what appeared to be human waste flowing against the walls.
Unlike other youths who have nothing to show, Chamachimwe, who survives through “hustling,” drives a Mercedes Benz E class, but is not content with the plight of his peers.
He said he attained 15 points at Advanced Level but could not then proceed further with education because of financial constraints as he grew up an orphan.