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Meet Humphrey for pure leather products

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Humphrey Matiyenga’s formal job with a Harare company is structured in such a way that he keeps vigil with the owls.

This often leaves him with 16 hours during the day in which he expresses his passion through art works.

He has a fully-fledged workshop at his home in Kambuzuma.

The 43-year-old says art has been in his blood since his primary school days.

“I used to be one of those boys that were fascinated with the charts in our classrooms — with drawings of fish or apples. I really wanted to understand how fish drawings were done,” he said.

Matiyenga was born in Mbare where he lived with his parents and attended school at Chitsere Primary School and Harare High School.

He, together with a friend Farai Nyakudya, started making pure leather products in 1994 on a part-time basis, but was later discouraged when he realised the field was crowded with artists targeting a few customers.

It was then he decided to do something different, which later marked his big break.

“We started to do handiwork bags, belts, jackets and suits using sacks in 1995. We then realised that sacks were just too plain and there was need to put a strong finish and that was when we adopted leather finishing,” he said.

Matiyenga said their products now had a combination of sack and leather which were both recycled materials.

Matiyenga said they used to sell their products in flea markets in the city, but the responses were not good.

“We then started to sell our products in curio shops. We have been delivering our goods to Jameson and Oasis Hotel for more than 10 years. But we then realised that for us to learn and grow we have to target exhibitions in and outside the country,” he said.

He said they make the products at home and then sell at exhibitions three times a year because the products are hand-made and require a lot of time to complete.

He said his company participated in arts exhibitions in Botswana, Malawi and overseas. It has exhibited at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair 12 times and participated at Harare International Festival of the Arts.

Matiyenga said they would exhibit in Malawi during
Easter holidays with Malawian artists who specialise in wood carvings.

“Malawians are good wood carvers they make good wood products and during those exhibitions we would exchange our products,” he said.

“We settled on making unique hand products that are our own and then move after that,” he said.

He said it takes him eight hours to make hand-made jackets. “I did not go to school to make these products. It’s just a passion for making hand-made products,” he said.

He said at one exhibition he can get between $500 and $1 000 depending on the day. Matiyenga is married and has four children.

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