A Memorable Picture


Que Que’s Main Street, Rhodesia

A Memorable Picture

This charming picture has come my way through the blog.  It was painted by a Que Que artist sponsored by Arthur Chapman in 1972, but it’s the same Main Street, Que Que of the late 50’s that I remember. 

A Memorable Picture

To me, the picture symbolizes the million pound proposal Dad set forth following his first election to municipal office in the late 1940’s.  The agenda was to bring Que Que from an appendage to the G & P Mine, not expected to ever amount to much, to contend for the title of the industrial hub of Southern Rhodesia.  You wouldn’t believe the opposition he encountered to the idea and involved the ouster of the entrenched mayor and shake up of the rubber stamp council. (That’s another story.)

It had all come to fruition by the late 50’s: the paving of Main Street, sidewalks and street lighting.  Gone were the days of Dick Smallman, the willing mechanic, adding on bits of wire to connect each new house to the electrical system.  Outside the picture is Sebakwe Dam and the amenities like water borne sewage, drainage to eliminate malaria, and the municipal swimming pool to reduce the incidence of bilharzia (schistosomiasis).

The artist’s depiction of the buildings is accurate.  Our Post Office with its tall tower was Que Que’s landmark, so colonial in appearance: solid.  Next door to it, Davidsons, was a building Dad owned.  The ground floor, a store front, was rented.  It was a liquor store.  Although he could knock back a whisky at the Que Que Hotel around election time, he thought liquor was a curse and preached against it at the surgery.  He black-listed alcoholics.  Upstairs were flats for rent and these proved a refuge for displaced spouses in abuse cases on occasion.  (Those are a story unto themselves.)

Next to that was Bruntons, a luxury gift shop and pharmacy followed by Freeman’s Grocery Store, The Mad Hatter a milk bar, the Standard Bank, Truworths dress shop, Philipson’s Butchery and finally Assurity an appliance store anchored the corner.  The mature gum trees just inside the long brick wall of the Railway property separated the two sections of Main Street with parkland beyond it.

The unpretentious fountain in the roundabout in the foreground was a donation to the town by Dad, an indulgence.  He was not given to ostentation, but enjoyed open space and water.  Mom never thought much of the aesthetics of this part of town.

But to me, it’s a happy, clean picture.  The skies are blue but cumulus clouds are building for afternoon summer rain no doubt: but Nationalist unrest was in the atmosphere too.

In the picture also is a lack of bustle and energy.  This is not the town I remembered, but the town that it became in 1972 after I had left.  It is captured through the medium of an African artist when the Western vision was being eclipsed.  But I have received recent encouraging reports of dynamic plans for Que Que.

A continent and a life time away I find myself in a small town again, with a strip mall, also on the main highway, but it serves our needs.  There is politics afoot to oust the entrenched mayor with a rubber stamp council — and no voter apathy this year.

Arthur Chapman forwarded the scan of this oil on board measuring 65×40 cm (25.5×15.7in.).  He sponsored and promoted Que Que artists in the ‘70’s.  The picture is for sale but he would like it to go to a Que Queite.

Contact Arthur directly at neoprops@telkomsa.net