Plight of a Roadside Artist in COVID-19 Pandemic

By Tafadzwa Zimoyo
Matabeleland-based clay artist Bridget Mpofu says the coronavirus pandemic has affected her business and she has gone for weeks without customers.

Mpofu, who makes artefacts such as flower pots, vases, jars, candle stands and various other attractive decorative pieces using clay and water sells her wares by the roadside in Gwayi.

The female entrepreneur said she gets the clay from the banks of Gwayi River with the help of her friends and the business was going well before the outbreak of the virus.

In an interview with The Herald Arts, Mpofu said she was finding it hard to fend for her four children because of the slump in business.

“I used to make 30 flower pots every day and could sell 10 to 20 units a day. The prices range from ZWL$500 to ZWL$800. My customers are mostly tourists who visit the Victoria Falls and Hwange. I am very disappointed now because the coronavirus has greatly affected us. Now, a week can pass without anyone buying or just stopping to ask about the products,” she said.

Mpofu said she learnt the business from white former farmers who stayed in Hwange and Victoria Falls.

“I used to work in the fields with my husband. Some white farmers taught us to make clay pots and I later thought of it as a business and decided to come by the roadside.

“Life is tough here in Gwayi, the weather is too hot to the extent that farming is difficult too. We survive on various projects like sculpting and weaving among others,” she said.

She wishes she could have planned ahead of the pandemic.

“Financial constraints and lack of resources affect us.

“If we had known in time about how this was going to affect us, I could have made other plans. My plan now is that soon after Covid-19, I am going to have stations in Victoria Falls Airport, Bulawayo and Hwange so that I can sell my products rather than wait for people to drive to this place,” she said.

She thanked the Government for giving women platforms to shine and creating empowerment through employment in various sectors.

“We applaud the Government for giving us platforms and opportunities to exercise and showcase our talents.

“Very few women are into professional clay pot making but we are surviving in the male-dominated industry,” she added.

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