By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
07 May 2014
Two Harare artists, who took it upon themselves to give a facelift to the suburb of Mbare, say the council has banned them from painting the flats in the area.
Both Warren Maruta and Beszil Matsika took their brushes to spruce up their area and at the same time earn a living, only for the council to stop them saying their initiative was illegal.
The two brothers started their project in August last year and despite any formal training their work has earned them a heroes’ status in Mbare which has been neglected for ages. Mbare is generally an eye sore with most structures having gone for decades without any refurbishment, and the walls of the Matapi flats are cracked and stained.
Maruta said they won the residents’ hearts by painting murals of local heroes such as Jah Prayzah who has used the pair’s work in his music videos. Their first painting was at the Jexious Corner (Jexious is a music producer living in the Matapi area). Maruta told SW Radio Africa that by promoting the local heroes their intention was to help the suburb shed its image as a hub of crime.
According to Maruta, the ban on the murals has destroyed the artists’ livelihoods. Since the ban the two brothers are now relying on small contracts from individuals who want portraits of their heroes to display in their homes.
Maruta said they are now appealing for sponsorship for them to be able to showcase their work. He said lack of sponsorship prevented them from participating at the just ended Harare International Arts Festival.
Combined Harare Residents Association Chairman Simbarashe Moyo criticized the council for neglecting the suburb of Mbare and praised the two artists for their initiative. Moyo said if the council cannot afford to refurbish the area it should allow the residents to do it themselves if they can afford to.
He added: ‘Mbare is generally an eyesore and when we asked the council why they were neglecting the area, especially the Matapi area, they said people there don’t pay charges and therefore the council cannot invest in the area.’
This development comes in the aftermath of revelations that senior Harare City Council managers were earning corrupt salaries with each director taking home as much as $30,000 a month.