Tsonga murals rely mainly on the use of earth tones, but can include bold accents of colour. Typically, these colour accents serve to mark the entrances to courtyards and the doorways of thatched dwellings.
In common with Tsonga women, Pedi women use natural earth tones. Like most other South African groups they include designs to accentuate the corners and doorways of courtyard areas. The need to repaint walls stained by water dripping from roof tops during the rainy season is obviated by adding similar bands of colour to the lower sections of their homes.
The tendency among rural muralists of treating doorways and windows as visual markers is in many cases motivated by aesthetic rather than symbolic considerations. Among South Sotho communities, this includes the practice adding a decorative cornice, or crowning projection at the roof line.
Ndebele women also add cornices to some dwellings. Instead of fashioning these bold visual accents to cast shadows at different times of the day, muralists paint cornices directly onto the façades of their homesteads.
In some communities, the practice of accentuating doorways with mural details is ascribed to their association with the homestead's ancestors. These and other decorative features also serve to underline the pride women take in looking after their homes.
South Sotho women decorate the surrounds of doorways and windows with a range of motifs. While some of these are drawn from nature, others are inspired by the profiles of dressing tables and similar commercially manufactured items of furniture.
Features like windows and doorways are often accentuated through stark colour contrasts. Additional emphasis is achieved by outlining these decorative borders in a darker colour, generally black.
The tendency to raise the thresholds of doors is motivated not by decorative considerations, but rather by the need to prevent the homestead from flooding during the rainy season.
Women from Tswana and South Sotho communities commonly use relief plasterwork to accentuate doorways, windows and other details like the outer perimeters of the homestead facades. The contrast between these surrounds and the rest of the facade is usually enhanced by unpainted relief work.
© Professor Sandra Klopper