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Weya Women's Workshop
Weya is a small community in Zimbabwe 170 km southeast of Harare. With dry land and poor soil, it is difficult to get by with subsistence farming, and most of the men have been forced to seek employment in cities or on more arable lands. This has left the women to tend the cattle, work the land and provide for their families.
A community training centre was established in 1982 to provide skills that would enable people to supplement their incomes from subsistence farming. In 1987 German art teacher Ilse Noy began teaching women who had never painted before to create works with water-based paint and varnish on plywood.
In 1989 Noy introduced embroidery, which is more labour-intensive, requires more artistic talent, and a type of batik painting called sazda painting, using maize porridge (sazda) instead of wax. A drawing is outlined with a thin line of cooked porridge and, once it is dry, the material is coloured with fabric paint that is fixed by baking. The porridge is then washed away, leaving outlines or highlights of the original colour of the fabric. She also taught embroidery, appliqué, board painting and fabric painting. Craftwork is traditionally done by the women for practical needs rather than for gallery walls. They make no preparatory drawings, and this allows their patterns to develop spontaneously.
The villagers are inspired by daily life around them: daily life amongst their vegetable gardens and cattle, the wild animals around them and their folkloric legends. The work of art is often accompanied by a description written by the artist. Weya artists' lives have changed dramatically.
One woman says: "Since we started applique, life is far easier for me than before. Even now I can pay primary school fees for the little boys and I buy materials to sew uniforms for my kids. I can buy shoes. I manage to buy my groceries for the whole month. I do things on my own. Sometimes when my husband cornes home he finds me and I have sugar and everything."
Last Updated 20 April 2020 08:16