During the reign of King Logenbula of the Ndebele nation, Bulawayo was the capital of his kingdom. In the wars between the BSAC, i.e. Rhodes, and the Ndebele, Bulawayo was burned, and when the British became ascendant, the capital was moved from Bulawayo to Salisbury in the north, formerly Fort Salisbury.
These days, Bulawayo is the second-largest city in Zimbabwe, and has easy access to major sight-seeing points such as Matopo National Park, Khami Ruins, Hwange National Park, and Victoria Falls.
Bulawayo carries weight still as a nationally important city, even if it is no longer the capital like Harare, the post-independence name for Salisbury. The National Art Gallery is in Harare, but the “National Art Gallery in Bulawayo” is considered a part of the National Gallery and of equal stature.
The National Art Gallery in Bulawayo is in a building dating from the early days of Bulawayo, in its heyday as a center of business and trade. The building housed business offices in what was the center of the city.
The building houses a small but interesting collection on the second floor, reached by climbing a lovely staircase opposite the main entrance.
And, just in case you wondered how much attention people in Africa pay to events in the United States:
Part of the mission of the National Gallery is to encourage art appreciation and artistic development, so some of the space is devoted to the art work of people, especially youth, who are learning and developing their skills.
I chose to include the pieces that I liked best, and there were quite a few, including a couple of photographs:
I would have loved to bring any of Nyasha Bandoma’s watercolors home with me.
The building itself was very pleasant and interesting, although it could stand some TLC. People in Zimbabwe do not have a lot of spare cash these days.
When I went with Paul Hubbard, a local guide, native to Zimbabwe, on a tour of the city, we included the National Gallery Bulawayo, and had lunch in the courtyard cafe in back of the main building. The courtyard building houses studios of various artists. They are frequently present and, of course, willing to show you their work. Also, there are some sculptures on display.
Other parts of Bulawayo are fun to see and hear some of their history:
F.W. Woolworth’s store in Bulawayo now is used by others, but still bears the name on top of the building. Yes, it’s the same F.W. Woolworth family that had so many stores in the U.S., and still has stores in countries where Britain had large populations, as well as the U.K.
The local market has been used as a main source of shopping for ages, and is still the most active place:
There are individual shops, too:
Like all cities with any size and history, there are re-purposed buildings, such as this one that used to be a theater. Next door was a former hotel (no photo – not permitted) where King Edward VIII stayed during his brief reign – he was England’s king that abdicated.
This window belongs to one of Paul Hubbard’s favorite businesses. It’s been here, just the same, excellent service, for three generations, i.e. much of Bulawayo’s modern history, grandfather, father, son. Matabele Steam Laundry.
Some stores have seen better days. This was a major department store in the colonial zenith, but now the inside has been chopped up into individual retail spaces. The old pony ride survives as a curiosity, not as a functioning ride, at least not on this day. We tried.
The Bulawayo City and District offices. We went inside – everyone knew Paul – but they were having meetings, so much of the inside was not available for photos. This bust of an early official posed very nicely:
A flower market near the City offices; sculpture on the Pioneer Square Building, an early landmark of Bulawayo; street art depicting a family on a social services building; and the High Court, with a billboard encouraging citizens to report corruption they might find. Corruption is a problem in other countries in Africa as well – while poverty has been significantly reduced, there is still very high unemployment and large numbers live in poverty, creating the temptation.
Other buildings, now repurposed. The third one is a local Miekles Hotel, and formerly the “luxury” hotel in town. I stayed in the Miekles in Harare, and it was a beautiful hotel, still operating in the old style.
A war memorial – I am sorry I didn’t write down which war. The British Empire had troops from all of its colonies in various wars, who fought on behalf of the Empire. The indigenous soldiers are listed on most that I saw, as well as the British soldiers who fought.
The colonials were not always so sensitive. The building below the memorial housed government offices, and decorated by a British designer-architect who didn’t realize there is a difference between Asian elephants and African elephants. It now houses the Sheriff’s Office.
Below the Asian elephant, is a man who observed me taking photos and volunteered to be the subject of a “candid.” Zimbabweans are wonderful people, beautifully friendly and open.
Lastly, Bulawayo hosted the first public library in Zimbabwe, and houses a wonderful collection of books. Located at the same intersection as the Bulawayo Club, if I’d stayed longer, I would have investigated library privileges!