A Sojourn in Africa: Photographs by GR Davis


Part 1: Zimbabwe

Skip to Part 2: Safaris in Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe


Hartzell Mission, Africa University and the Mutare River Valley
Old Mutare, Zimbabwe

The Hartzell Mission (foreground) in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe was established by Methodists in 1897 at the base of Mount Chiremba. Like most missions, tt consisted of a church, a school, a clinic, and later an orphanage. In 1992 Africa University was established with a School of Agriculture and Natural Resources and a School of Theology. The AU campus is now home to 1600 students from twenty eight African countries. The Mutare River flows just beyond the low ridge. Mutare, Zimbabwe's fourth largest city, lies ten miles away across Christmas Pass through the high mountains in the distance.





Contrast in Stone
The Great Zimbabwe

"Zi-mba-bwe" is Shona for "Big-House-Stone" or "The Big House of Stone." The Great Zimbabwe served as the capital of the Shona Kingdom from about 1250 A.D. until about 1500. At its climax, about 25,000 people lived on the site. The Shona King lived atop a mountain. Access to the King's Mountain seen here was via narrow passages that ascend steeply. There were many check points where guards could drop stones onto the heads of persons considered threats. Nearby The Great Enclosure was home to the King's many wives. Since wives were expensive to purchase (the parents must be paid a lobola or brides' price, a custom still common in Zimbabwe and Kenya), having many wives was a clear indication of the king's wealth. One King was known to have more than 200 wives. The site was abandoned because the surrounding countryside could not support the food and water needs of so many occupants.
The Great Zimbabwe was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.




Mutare-Harare Highway, Zimbabwe

Cecil Rhodes brought the railroad to Zimbabwe. Then came electricity and later still communication towers and cell phones. All the while and up to the present, Zimbabweans in the rural areas still live in thatch roofed huts without electricity or running water.







Rock Paintings
Mount Tsvingwe, Zimbabwe

I encountered Robert in the choir loft of the Anglican Church at St. Augustine's Mission near Penhalonga, Zimbabwe. I wanted to see the rock paintings I'd heard about. I asked Robert if he knew about the rock paintings and he said "Yes." He'd gone there only once fourteen years ago when nine years old. I asked him if he could lead me there, and again he said "Yes." We were joined by several boys from the R.G. Mugabe Orphanage.

As we neared the entrance to the cleft in a rock below the summit of Mount Tsvingwe, Robert has us kneel as he addressed in Shona the spirits of the ancestors who reside there, making the customary request for protection from snakes, wild animals, and accidents. Having attended school at St. Augustine's Mission, Robert is Anglican but also respects tribal spirituality and sees no disharmony between the two. Robert explained that ancestor spirits are not gods but nevertheless should be given proper reverence. Ancestor spirits can bring misfortune to humans who are disrespectful.






The Graduation Speaker
Mutare Polytechnic Institute, Zimbabwe

Some dignitaries appear annoyed with the speaker's message of empowerment for women, and others seem more annoyed at the only white man in attendance, the one who's taking so many pictures of the ceremony where graduates are receiving certificates for hair braiding, cake decorating, and electrical repair and other trade skills.






Morning Mist
Africa University Farm Field, Old Mutare, Zimbabwe

The climate of eastern Zimbabwe is conducive to growing crops year round. The AU farm fields are used to test new varieties, experiment with new practices, and most importantly, to provide food for the University Dining Hall. AU Farm workers operate a piggery, raise broiler and layer chickens and run a small dairy.








Bountiful Harvest
The Africa University Farm,
Old Mutare, Zimbabwe

Like farmers everywhere who fret about rain (too much or too little at the wrong time) workers on the AU Farm are concerned with the possibility of a poor harvest. As a precaution, fields are planted at different times but if the season is good, the fields mature at different times. Since hiring a combine to harvest the maize is expensive and a "one shot deal" the timing has to be precise. Here farm workers have hand-picked one field and are drying the ears to the proper moisture content in attempt to determine the optimal day to bring a commercial combine to the campus.





Aubrey Mpambirai, Tractor Driver
Africa University campus,
Old Mutare, Zimbabwe

Shortly before students graduate from Africa University's Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, they are given a lesson in how to drive a tractor by Larry Kies, a Methodist Missionary who teaches in FANR and serves as the Technical Advisor for the AU Farm. When Mr. Kies left for a furlough to the US, GR Davis gave eight students their tractor-driving lessons on this 1950's Ford tractor donated by "Tractors for Our Daily Bread" of Manhattan, Kansas.






Phillip and the Farm Kids
Porch of the AU Guest House,
Old Mutare, Zimbabwe

After school and on weekends the children of the AU Farm workers would come for long visits to the AU Guest House.
Sometimes they'd re-enact Bible stories which could be extraordinarily dramatic if not exactly consistent with Scripture.







Bleak Beauty
Penhalonga, Zimbabwe

On an afternoon climb to the summit of Mount Tsvingwe, we could see across the village of Tsvingwe to the Mutare River where the Redwing Company is strip-mining for gold with no regard for environmental degradation or land reclamation. The lone tree in the foreground is a reminder that all the trees on the mountain below this level have been cut for firewood.




Solar Power
Near Nyadiri, Zimbabwe

The sun grows the maize that feeds the people who text on cell phones charged by solar panels.






A Season's Effort
The Gonye Homestead
Old Mutare, Zimbawe

Rural Zimbabweans can hire a team of oxen to plow a field for $10. That is, they could if they had $10. Most don't, so they work the soil with hand tools. Most can't afford fertilizer either. At harvest time, ears of maize are pulled from the stalks and laid in the sun . Kernels stripped from the cob are scattered on tarps to dry before being ground to maize meal which is boiled in water to make sadza, the staple of the diet.






The Gonye Kitchen
Old Mutare, Zimbabwe

This family has two round huts, each with a single door. They sleep in the brick hut and a cook in mud-walled hut. Water is hand-pumped from a community well several hundred meters away. Fully functional dishwashers have ten fingers. There is no electricity. The privy is a hole in the ground surrounded by tall weeds.






Lunch for a Soapstone Carver
Border crossing into Mozambique, Mutare, Zimbabwe

Soapstone carvers hoping to sell their artwork make a common meal over a small wood fire.
Pumpkin leaves and tomatoes are cooked with a dab of peanut butter.



Go to Part 1: Zimbabwe continued
(These are my favorite images and captions!)



Skip to Part 2: Safaris in Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe

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