PHOTOS Dook WORDS Tracy Greenwood
Beks and Sophia Ndlovu’s weekend home in the Matobo Hills region of Zimbabwe is where they find peace and unity as a family.
The house that Beks Ndlovu built in the Matobo Hills just outside Matobo National Park is but a short drive from Bulawayo. A former safari guide to the stars and now CEO of African Bush Camps, which runs adventure safaris in Zimbabwe and Botswana, Beks wanted to create a weekend getaway for his family in the land of his ancestors, a majestic and hilly locale hewn out of a solid granite plateau over thousands of years. This is his story.
Matobo is the historical land of my ancestors King Mzilikazi and his son Lobengula. It is also originally the land of the aboriginal people of southern Africa and the place where Cecil John Rhodes is buried.
By 3 pm on Fridays we are packed and ready to go. There is no cellphone or Wi-Fi signal at Matobo. This is a place where we can focus on connecting with nature and with one another as a family.
My wife, Sophia, was born in Germany but raised in Australia from the age of six. She is a nurse, and we met when she started visiting Zimbabwe doing volunteer work in remote clinics. From the -moment we met I set about convincing her that I needed permanent nursing!
Sophia and I have three children, Jeremiah (8), Zenzele (7) and Zahra (5). They go to a local school in Bulawayo, where we live. We also have two beloved Rhodesian ridgebacks.
When we met, Sophia and I spent our free days hiking and exploring the Matobo Hills area. We fell in love with its beauty and sense of energy, so much so that we were married there in 2003. From then on we knew that one day we would build a home in the area. Two years ago we found the perfect spot and set about purchasing a 240 ha tract of land in this magical area.
I designed and built the house from scratch. I used lots of wood and corrugated iron, plus local stones resembling the carefully carved and shaped stones of Great Zimbabwe. During the build, family and friends joked that I was building my family a shack in the bush. We called the house Khayelitshe, which is Ndebele for “house in stone”, not dissimilar from Khayelitsha in Cape Town, which means “new home”.
Sophia and I regard ourselves as Africans, but we are also citizens of the world. This is reflected in the architectural styles in our Matobo home, a mix of North, East, West and Southern African styles. But there is also art and some fixtures such as doors and windows that come from India.
To me, a house must be unpretentious and built with an acute awareness of its surroundings. I think we have achieved this. It is organically built, a clean and uncluttered space that is honest to the environment in which it finds itself. Khayelitshe has no straight lines. It is perfectly imperfect, and so easy to live in. And on Sundays when the time comes to pack up and return to Bulawayo, we struggle to leave.