By Norma Tsopo
BUHERA – Lost to admirers of the exquisite architectural genius of the Great Zimbabwe Monuments is a not so hidden treasure trove of its more refined offshoots.
Buhera has a nest of these zimbabwe type spectacles that were built as the inhabitants of the Masvingo monuments fanned out abandoning the ancient stone city albeit with superior building skills.
The biggest of these monuments are at Matendera.
Mirroring its architectural styles complete with the dressed stone walls, herringbone and chevron decorations, and monoliths Matendera National Monument’s neat walls betray its having built by people who had more refined skills.
The monument is the largest of its type found in Manicaland province, according to the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe.
Estimated to have been constructed between 1600 and 1800 A.D, this architectural beauty has been a National Monument since 1939 and the most significant in a nest of six other similar zimbabwe type of sites in the area.
Sitting more than 200 km from its more popular parent monument efforts to also bring the spotlight on the hilltop ancient village have involved an annual cultural carnival – Matendera Festival.
Held annually since August, 2010 the festival is a celebration of the tangible and intangible heritage of the people of Buhera (Vahera) through their native dances such as Jaka, drama and poetry.
The monument is thus considered by locals as a cultural resource that could benefit them by drawing cultural tourists to their communal lands to ignite their development ambitions.
They hope to that with visitors to witness their community’s historical, artistic, and cultural heritage offerings they can improve their lot in the arid and drought prone area.
However, just like any other monuments their age, the monument needs constant attention to preserve it and the potential it harbors.
Recent physical condition surveys have shown that the stone walls have some structural problems that need constant monitoring.
Restoration of walls that occasionally collapse and stabilisation of toppling blocks has were completed a year ago.
Apart from Matendera, there are similar national monuments in the same vicinity – Chironga, Chiwona, Kagumbudzi and Muchuchu Ruins.
Among the most significant is Chiwona, another hilltop site 10 km from Matendera; Kagumbudzi, which sits on a low hill; and Muchuchu ruins are located eight kilometres west of Matendera.