Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And now for something completely different......

I belong to the local Business Women's network, which has recently started up in town. Yesterday's lunch meeting was a talk by Getrude Matshe.

She is a Zimbabwean artist, author and storyteller who came to New Zealand only 6 years ago with her 3 children. After working for 3 months, she had saved enough to pay for her husband, a doctor, to come as well. They had nothing, as you couldn't take money out of Zimbabwe.

Her full story is too long to relate here, but she's truly inspriring. I don't think I've ever been so impressed by someon'e life story, and I consider it significant that I won a copy of her book (still to come)- cover shown in the photo. You can read more about her and her work here on her website, which is promoting her book, all proceeds of which go towards supporting and educating African orphans with HIV.

There IS a textile slant to this - as poor blacks, Getrude's mother and brothers and sisters (from age 6) spent their spare time making crafts that their mother sold at weekends by knocking on doors in the white districts. This was to raise enough money to send the children to private schools (ie not the basic village school where the black children normally went). Later, her father sold 100 cows to enable Getrude to attend university in London. She returned to Zimbabwe, married and had a family. They were about to emigrate when September 11 happened, and the building where Getrude was to take craft workshops (see below) was destroyed. Then the Zimbabwean government changed the rules about going to the States. A cousin had come to New Zealand and told Getrude this is where she should come.

When Getrude arrived here, she needed money so she painted cloth with traditional African designs, using an African technique of batik using cornstarch instead of wax. Unable to find an outlet for her 100 metres of cloth, she cut it up into small pieces and made cushions. These sold, she opened a shop, and things snowballed from there. She and her husband now have 3 businesses; the Africa Alive Foundation where she personally supports 150 orphans, many of whom are in her extended family (life expectancy in Zimbabwe for blacks is under 37 years); she has acted in "King Kong" and spent 2 weeks watching Peter Jackson (a local icon!) work; and she speaks to groups all around the world. Having now written the book, she now plans to write and direct a film.

Can you tell I'm impressed?

7 comments:

joyce said...

Wow! What a lady and she is beautiful too. I think in the end, she's lucky to end up in NZ rather than USA.

Felicia said...

Wow! Heck yeah, I'm impressed too. It just goes to show you and anything can happen in this world. Determination, strength, belief. All untouchables that can lead to success. I've gotta read her book.

DubiQuilts - Debbi said...

What a great story. I will stop by her website and read more about her and her art.

Suzi-k said...

I deeply admire Zimbabweans, they are creative and enterprising. We have over a million refugees in SA and they work so hard and so creatively to make a living.

Deb H said...

So am I! Impressed, I mean. Stories like this amaze me. I think I'll buy the book too!

Lorraine said...

So wonderful - I am going to get a copy of that book to share with my kids. In middle-class America, we just don't have any idea what it is to have to use your wits and creativity to change your life (and the world, as Mrs. Matshe is). Inspiring and definitely worth teaching to our kids.

Sheila said...

What an impressive woman. She is beautiful, bright and generous. New Zealand is lucky to have her live there.