By Norma Tsopo
MUTARE – Johannes Lovemore Landini’s confidence as one of Mutare city’s finest weavers borders on arrogance.
“I feel that there is only one weaver who is far more superior to me in the whole city and that is Lovemore Dick,” Landini says without batting an eye.
His works back him up though – they are immaculate. He, indeed, is a master craftsman.
But something unique sets him apart from the crowd – he is visually impaired. His mastery in this trade is confirmed by his peers in the arts industry, and this is a huge testament to his artistic finesse.
“There are many visually able weavers who come to consult me when they get stuck on certain areas,” Landini says as he works on his wares at his home in Sakubva high density suburb.
He has had to battle the devastating effect of the late onset of his disability to be a leading light in this difficult visually appealing art genre.
Landini only lost his sight as he approached his thirties – a very difficult age to adapt at.
“I was devastated. All my dreams blacked out. I had lost my independence in adulthood and was depending on others,” he reminisces.
Before he lost his sight he was a construction worker and a keen painter. Slowly his colourful world began to deem and blur as he battled an incessant headache that only grew in intensity as he delved around for a cure.
“When I finally got competent medical attention after local doctors had tried everything and failed. A doctor at Parirenyatwa hospital told me it was too late for him to do anything and instead referred me for an expensive operation in South Africa. It too was not going to guarantee me my eyesight so I got stuck with my painkillers until I was completely blind.”
He however did not give up on life. He still had his self-worth intact and instead of mourning his misfortune he was soon exploring ways to be self-sustaining.
“Begging was out of the question. My parents had programed in me the biblical philosophy that if a man will not work, then he should not eat.”
Having completely lost his sight in 2002, his family approached the ministry of social welfare which whom they worked to secure a place for him at Jairos Jiri where he did a two year course in basket weaving.
“The Independent African Church also assisted with my provisions as I was on a social welfare scholarship,” Landini said.
Going to Jairos Jiri where he would, for the first time in his life, interact with other visually impaired people helped him to adjust to life without the sense of sight.
“When I then met others in college I got the support and encouragement that gave me the will to fight on and accept my condition,” he says.
His only handicap in his art is that he needs the aid of a frame to weave – leaving out only a few items which does nothing to diminish his distinguished status in the trade.
Although he works for his upkeep, he still suffers discrimination because of the all so common stereotype of the blind being beggars in Zimbabwe.
Having to travel over 160 kilometres by bus to Chibuwe he is often barred entry into buses by overzealous conductors who often mistake him for a free-riding beggar.
“The moment I get to a bus some would block me from entering even when I tell them clearly that I’m an ordinary passenger who is willing to pay my fare.”
A determined fighter, Landini has however been defying the odds and shaming misers, rude conductors and touts by not expecting any favours.