Zimbabwe: Fresh Look for Newlands Shopping Centre

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Have you ever been in a place of hopelessness, a place of despair and wondered whether or not it was possible to rise up again?

Is it possible to rise up again from the ashes? Is it possible to give life to shattered dreams?

When faced with challenges and difficult situations, it is very easy to become lethargic. By their very nature, trying times are there to discourage, to make you despondent, to kill your passion, your zeal, your drive and bring you to a position of hopelessness. Robert Brault notes however that "It is the first purpose of hope to make hopelessness bearable". So where there is hope, there can be a rising from the ashes of shattered dreams! George Weinberg assures us that "Hope never abandons you, you abandon it"!

Last week I spent some time at Newlands shopping Centre. I stopped to take photos of a gigantic, colourful flower that is at the roundabout.

As I stood near the flower and looked around at a continuous flow of cars driving through and people going about their business, I sensed the birthing of a new life at a centre that was almost dying.

Since the opening of the new road that by- passes Newlands shopping centre, there was very little movement and activity in the area. The situation was so bad that a number of businesses were forced to close down.

Project brings the Newlands community together

The state of hopelessness at Newlands Shopping Centre attracted two friends, Laura Dreyer and Louise Bragge, who decided to do something about it.

Using their expertise in art and community-based projects, as well as environmental management and urban planning respectively; they decided to work with the community to restore the life that the centre had lost.

Armed with nothing but their skills, passion, drive and love for their country, Laura and Louise sat down and came up with a plan on how they could once again attract people to Newlands shopping centre.

In November last year, they worked with community members, staff from some of the businesses and the city council to put up bunting around the shopping centre. This exercise brought people who work in Newlands together and gave them an opportunity to create new conversations around this exciting development.

At Christmas time last year, Laura and Louise sought sponsorship from a number of organisations and put up Christmas trees using recycled plastic as a way to reinforce their theme of bringing art, sustainability and co-creation to the urban landscape. The Christmas trees were put up by staff of the sponsoring companies working with street vendors from Newlands.

It turns out that the giant flower that attracted my attention at the centre has been assembled from the Christmas trees. This public art installation is not only beautiful to look at, but it also raises awareness on re-using and recycling materials.

Louise and Laura have a number of plans on the cards for the revival of Newlands shopping centre. These include, closing off the road within the shopping centre and creating it into a pedestrian walk way.

The road will be artistically painted in different colours and there will be a beautiful art design that will go in the middle of the road. Community members and the public will be invited to participate in the painting of the road.

They will also launch a recycling station and introduce a fresh produce market among other activities. They are working to provide space for a global community where even companies will be able to come to Newlands shopping centre to showcase their products once the developments are in place.

The Newlands project requires a huge amount of funding which Laura and Louise do not have. What they have however is a desperate desire to see this once vibrant centre rise up again.

When I asked Louise what motivates them to keep driving this project without the much-needed funding, she said "I would like to see a world with less talk and more action, people doing what they say and recognising their power to realise their dreams, moving from imagining to actually creating. This trend begins at the individual level and then spreads, it is contagious and I believe is the only thing that can truly change our world."

So, go on, take a drive to Newlands shopping Centre to see this gigantic flower, a beautiful piece of artwork that speaks of the possibilities that we have as a people and a community to rise again!

Patricia Mabviko Musanhu is a Company Director/Producer of Black and White Media Productions. She can be contacted at pmabviko@gmail.com

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