Hid­den trea­sure: Mutare’s Utopia House Mu­seum

The Manica Post - - Opinion / Feature - Sharon Chigeza Post Re­porter

NES­TLED in a moun­tain­ous to­pog­ra­phy, Mutare is a beau­ti­ful city in the East­ern bor­der of Zim­babwe.

And, thanks to the moun­tain­ous ter­rain, Mutare has come to be af­fec­tion­ately known as ‘Ku­mako­moyo’ by lo­cals, a name that has tran­scended bound­aries in and out­side Zim­babwe.

Not only is Mutare one of the most beau­ti­ful places in Zim­babwe, but it also has the kind­est and warm­est of peo­ple. Myth has it that the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try was once dom­i­nated by vana Wasu, Sa­manyika, as the lo­cals of Mutare have been la­belled by other di­alects in Zim­babwe.

The city has vast stretches of moun­tain­ous ter­rain com­pli­mented by beau­ti­ful thick green bushes, jacaranda and flam­boy­ant tree highlights within it.

Mutare boasts not only a unique ge­og­ra­phy but is a melt­ing pot of many dif­fer­ent cul­tures, lan­guages, tra­di­tions and a rich his­tory.

Within the beau­ti­ful city of Mutare lie sto­ries to be told, ques­tions to be an­swered and mys­ter­ies to be solved.

We owe much of the preser­va­tion of such a legacy to the tire­less and ex­ten­sive work of the Na­tional Mu­se­ums and Mon­u­ments of Zim­babwe and the Mutare Mu­seum of An­tiq­ui­ties. The city houses two mu­se­ums — the sec­ond one be­ing Utopia House Mu­seum lo­cated in the low den­sity sub­urb of Mu­rambi, un­der the cu­ra­tor­ship of Mutare Mu­seum.

Mutare’s sec­ond mu­seum, a house mu­seum is sit­u­ated 2km away from the main mu­seum, op­po­site St Do­minic’s High School.

One might won­der why a mere house may have been given the spe­cial priv­i­lege and hon­our to be such a cher­ished site.

The house be­longed to Rhys and Ros­alie Fair­bridge, some of the pi­o­neer res­i­dents of Old Mutare. Rhys Fair­bridge him­self was the man be­hind the sur­vey- ing and struc­tur­ing of Mutare as it stands today.

The house is a quaint lit­tle house, built in the early 1900’s colo­nial style and has been pre­served in its orig­i­nal struc­ture since then.

Rhys Fair­bridge ar­rived in Man­i­ca­land in the early 1890’s and worked as a govern­ment sur­veyor, re­spon­si­ble for sur­vey­ing the present town of Mutare.

In 1897 he had his home “Utopia” built on one of the prime sites that he had sur­veyed ear­lier.

Con­struc­tion of this house met a few chal­lenges, such as when the stone walls of the house were about four feet high Fair­bridge re­alised the rainy sea­son was fast ap­proach­ing and with lit­tle money to com­plete the build­ing, he planted poles around the un­com­pleted walls, to sup­port a thatched roof.

Be­tween the sup­port­ing poles he hung reed mats.

The house was later com­pleted and con­structed mainly of lo­cal ma­te­ri­als be­fore the cor­ru­gated iron roof­ing, doors and windows were brought in from South Africa.

The in­te­rior of the house has been re­stored to the looks of the 1910-20 pe­riod.

Many of the orig­i­nal items of fur­ni­ture and pos­ses­sions be­long­ing to the Fair­bridge fam­ily have been pre­served and are on dis­play.

◆ DID YOU KNOW Mutare Club is one of the old­est stand­ing orig­i­nal build­ings in Mutare.

Rhys and Ros­alie's House Ex­te­rior. In­set: Statue of Kings­ley Fair­brige, African com­pan­ion Jack and dog Vic (cour­tesy of NMMZ)

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