Last November I visited Zimbabwe with Ray‘s family. During that trip, while driving back to Harare after our holiday in Nyanga, we turned off the A14 highway at a small sign for St. Faith’s High School. We were in a Zimbabwean province called Manicaland, a few minutes east of a town called Rusape.
We drove for a few kilometers down a bumpy dirt road, sweating in the mid-day heat. Eventually, right in the middle of the bush — in the middle of nowhere, really — we came upon one of the prettiest churches that I’ve ever seen.
St. Faith’s Church in Rusape, Zimbabwe.
We stopped to visit St. Faith’s — an Anglican church and mission school — for old time’s sake. Ray’s family has a history there. It’s a complicated story but here’s a brief recap:
A couple of decades ago Ray’s dad, Tim (who is a historian), visited St. Faith’s as a favor for a colleague. He was looking for a sculptor named Job Kekana. Kekana, who was South African but moved to Zimbabwe in the 1940s to work for a nun named Sister Pauline, had a workshop at St. Faith’s. Kekana specialized in religious woodcarvings and his work appears in churches all over the world. * (Read more about Job Kekana.)
Tim became friends with Job Kekana and visited him at St. Faith’s a few times over the years. Tim and Diana, Ray’s mom, also commissioned Kekana to carve a few sculptures for them. Kekana died in 1995.
Job Kekana sculptures in Ray’s parents’ living room.
Anyway, back to St. Faith’s. I’ve never seen anything quite like this church. It’s so huge and so remote — it seems to defy logic. Apparently the church was built in 1907 and I’m amazed that it has remained standing for more than 100 years. It’s made completely of wood, mud bricks, and thatch.
Another view of the outside of St. Faith’s. I can’t figure out how it hasn’t burned down, or if it has burned down, why it doesn’t just burn down over and over again. It has a massive thatched roof and I didn’t see a lightning rod.
Inside the nave of the church.
I don’t know enough about the architecture of churches (or architecture in general) to accurately describe this picture. I know it’s beautiful though.
A carving of one of the 14 Stations of the Cross. I did some research into these carvings and it seems they weren’t actually carved by Job Kekana, but by another St. Faith’s sculptor named David Chituku.
I wish we’d had more time at St. Faith’s. Other than a friendly secondary school student who walked past and said hello to us, we didn’t have the chance to speak to anyone who lives or works there. I could have spent hours walking around inside and outside the church, taking photos. But we were in the middle of a long, hot car journey and it just wasn’t possible.
Maybe I’ll make it back someday.
*Thanks to Tim for lending me a book called The Prophetic Nun, by Guy Butler, which provided some interesting background about Job Kekana and St. Faith’s. Also, today is Tim’s birthday. Happy birthday Tim!