Going on a safari holiday in Southern Africa isn’t just about the abundant nature and wildlife; it’s also about the rich art and cultural heritage waiting to be discovered. Allow us to introduce you to – the Ribola Art & Craft Trail – the cultural gem at the heart of all of our Safaris.
One of the most colourful provinces in South Africa is the Limpopo, home to the world-famous Kruger National Park and boasting the Ribola Art Route. A celebration of the Tsonga and Venda cultures, this immersive art route includes several studios, galleries and traditional homesteads belonging to local artists, woodcarvers, potters and other local families.
Bursting with art and cultural heritage, the Robola Art Route is an exciting journey of discovery. Starting in the town of Elim (which means ‘place of God’), visitors get a taste of the community vibe and buzz, the colours, people in traditional dress, and local food before encountering the diverse and creative artisans in the region.
For those who love Batik, embroidery and beading, Twananani Textiles is inspired by traditional Tsonga patterns. Formed of a group of 12 women, they use hand-painting techniques, block-printing, dyeing, beadwork and embroidery to create a wide range of home decoration and fashion products.
Also along the route is an inspiring young scrap artist, Pilato Bulala, the quintessential inventor creating rural scenes of South Africa’s journey past apartheid, all from scrap metal. He turns trash into treasure by building birds, fish, animals, tin helicopters, handmade hybrid bakkies, mini school buses and ‘scraptures‘ – his own word for the interesting sculptures he crafts from metal! He now even has his own rural gallery where he makes and sells beautiful recycled tin earrings and necklaces.
Pottery is also a much-loved craft in the province. The traditional and skilled Venda potters at the Mukondeni Pottery factory are famous. Here, a group of 15 wonderful women produce traditional and contemporary Venda pots, clay fire-place-pots, bowls, clay tiles and beads decorated with stunning geometric patterns and various traditional symbols like fishes. They demonstrate how they make their pots, showcase the traditional open-firing process, and display their extensive collection of pots and other clay objects – which are also available for purchase.
For even more examples of wonderful African pottery, there is Mukondeni Pottery Village where our guests can experience making their own pots. In the image below, Alexandra is learning how to do this!
Fishes are symbolic of the spiritual traditions of the Venda and the Tsonga people, with several culturally embedded stories and legends that feature sacred lakes and rivers. One of the most popular local legends features the tshidudwane, a creature similar to a mermaid. Therefore, fish and mermaids are strong symbols in the region and swim across all mediums, appearing on everything from ceramics to timber.
These symbols are also evident in the works of local woodcarvers like Thomas Kubayi, Owen Ndou, Patrick Manyike (in the image above) and the late and famous Jackson Hlungwani. Hlungwani is responsible for putting the Limpopo province – and Venda culture – on the map, and his legacy continues with several contemporary sculptors drawing on his inspirational work.
One such woodcarver inspired by Hlungwani who deserves a mention is the multi-talented Lucky Ntimani. Lucky’s creative abilities also extend to music. He is a musician who plays the guitar, marimba and many other traditional musical instruments. He explains the meaning of a sculpture by telling old Tsonga stories or highlighting its culture through the music he plays. He also encourages an interest in craft and music in the young. There are so many more artists and craftsmen in the province, and it’s a great area to explore and discover new talent. The art and cultural heritage of the region is a fascinating and inspiring way to find out more about the African people, their creativity and incredible life stories. It’s safe to say that no safari holiday to South Africa is complete without a trip to the Robola Art route.
For more on these talented artists at work 👉 Video Gallery – Community
If you are interested in art and culture being part of your safari holiday in Southern Africa, why not contact us for a chat? We’d be delighted to explain all the different safari options and will help you plan your safari holiday of a lifetime.
Alexandra’s Africa Eco-Cultural Safaris & Retreats
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