Posts Tagged With: Botswana

The Intrepid Travelers

Those who follow my posts will be aware that I have been out of the studio for well over a month, traveling through southern Botswana and the Limpopo Province of South Africa. It was a necessary break, and an opportunity to gather ideas and inspiration for the year ahead. Exactly what will come out of it, only time will tell, but for the time being, I am happy to sit with my experiences and gradually unravel them as the weeks and months go by. Over the next few posts, I will introduce you to some of the characters I met on my journey and share a few of the highlights.

I chose my traveling companion well, for Petra Terblanche is a cultural anthropologist, who has spent many years living in remote places, researching cultural traditions and setting up museums where the public can go to learn more about the different tribal groups and their material culture. Born and raised in Namibia to German parents, Petra studied at Stellenbosch and Pretoria Universities before moving to Limpopo where she became chief cultural officer for the province, and thereafter a freelance heritage practitioner and museum human scientist, still mainly operating within Limpopo, Namibia and Mozambique. Her knowledge of the Limpopo area, with it’s rich history and traditions is immense, and even after ten days of talking as we traveled, I felt that I had only scratched the surface of what she knows. A kindred spirit on so many levels, she was the perfect person to assist me in my quest.

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My traveling companion, Petra Terblanche

And what exactly was my quest? To get back into the bush, to travel to places I have not been before and to hopefully meet some of the artists who live in the area. The Limpopo Province in renowned for it’s talented sculptors, several of whom I have met on a previous expedition with Petra. When planning the itinerary for this trip, Petra had suggested that we might  visit a traditional dance group and go walkabout in  the Makgabeng Plateau, a place I knew absolutely nothing about. And then of course, she had promised to take me to the mystical Mapungubwe, a place I have always wanted to experience. So with all this lined up, my adventurous spirit was rearing to go and I knew I had much to look forward to.

The morning after the wedding, we packed our bags in preparation for our journey, and wandered down the pathway to say our goodbyes to the remnants of the wedding party.

The comfortable chalet where we stayed after the wedding

The comfortable chalet where we stayed after the wedding

The view from our front doorstep. These aloes are indigenous to the area

The view from our front doorstep. These aloes are indigenous to the area

We hadn’t got far, when the cheerful owner of the Bahurutshe Cultural Lodge, Mmankudu Glickman, invited us in for a cup of tea. A warm and hospitable lady, we were soon to learn that she is every bit the 21st Century African entrepreneur.

Mmankudu Glickman, the owner of the Bahurutshe Cultural Lodge

Mmankudu Glickman, the owner of the Bahurutshe Cultural Lodge

Worldly, yet rooted in her own culture, Mmankudu shared with us how she came to be running the centre.

Throughout her long and interesting life, Mmankudu has traveled extensively, and has been exposed to the ways and traditions of numerous other cultures. On her return to Botswana she had a desire to create a place where travellers could come and experience life in Africa, and in particular her rich Setswana culture, so she developed the facility at Mmankodi Village, approximately 30kms outside Gabarone, which she now runs with her family. The centre is nestled into the indigenous bush and is beautifully organised and maintained. Guests can either stay in traditional Setswana huts in the kgotla or in the more up market en suite chalets, which we found extremely comfortable.

The village has beautifully painted, comfortable, traditional Setswana huts

The village has beautifully painted, comfortable, traditional Setswana huts

They have a camp site and conference facilities, serve traditional Setswana food and entertain their guests with traditional dancing and storytelling. It’s a beautiful place and well worth visiting. If anyone should be going that way and want to stay the night, you can contact them at culturallodge@gmail.com or (+267) 72419170

Mmankudu at the entrance to the kgotla

Mmankudu at the entrance to the kgotla, bids us farewell

The next leg of our journey begins

The next leg of our journey begins

Heading out towards Gabarone, our first stop was to collect Petra’s dog and cat, who had been travelling with her from Namibia and had spent the wedding weekend in the kennel.

Setting off on our journey with Petra's dog, Xinto in the back of the vehicle

Setting off on our journey with Petra’s dog, Xinto in the back of the vehicle

Petra's cat peers out of the back of the vehicle

Petra’s cat peers out of the back of the vehicle

Still in party spirits, we headed North towards Palapye, a mining town 240kms from Gabarone, and fairly close to the South African border. We decided to stop here for a couple of days and to use it as a base whilst we ventured out to explore the surrounding countryside. The highlight of our time in this area was a visit to Old Palapye, previously known as Phalatswe, once the Bangwato capital and the original home of the Khama family, where we were shown the ruins of both Khama III’ s house and a magnificent old church that was built by the missionaries of the London Missionary Society between 1891 and 1894. To get to this Old Palapye monument, we passed through the village of Malaka, which is on the north west rim of the Tswapong Hills. We stopped to admire the ancient Ana trees that have been fenced off for protection at the centre of the village.

a protected grove of Ana trees in the centre of the scenic village of Malaka

a protected grove of Ana trees in the centre of the scenic village of Malaka

We drove around the village, admiring the many beautifully painted houses and were fortunate to be invited in to watch one proud homeowner hard at work.

A woman from the Malaka community invited us in to watch her build her courtyard

A woman from the Malaka community invited us in to watch her build her courtyard

The clay that is used to decorate the buildings of Malaka

The clay that is used to decorate the buildings of Malaka

Passing traffic outside Old Palapye

Passing traffic outside Old Palapye

Eight kilometres further on, we arrived at old Palapye and after announcing our arrival at the kgotla, we were taken by a guide through thick bush to visit the ruins of the old town centre and church. Apparently at the time of settlement there were up to 30,000 people living in Phalatswe, including resident European missionaries, wagon traders, hunters and adventurers.

The remnants of the old trading centre, occupied from 1889 - 1902 by the Bangwato, European missionaries, wagon traders, hunters and adventurers

The remnants of the old trading centre, occupied from 1889 – 1902 by the Bangwato under the chieftainship of Khama III

The remains of the London Missionary Society church, built with red earth bricks between 1891 and 1894

The remains of the London Missionary Society church, built with red earth bricks between 1891 and 1894

The ruins of the church are absolutely spectacular and it is a breathtaking experience to come upon them, standing there so proudly in the midst of the surrounding bush.

As soon as I saw this church, I was reminded once again of the layers of history that have gone before us and the layers of history that are still to come.

Our journey continues in my next post…

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Delta Wilderness

With my upcoming exhibition, Delta & Desert: Journeys into the Wilderness only a few weeks away, I thought I’d take a break from the studio and bring you a little bit of background to the theme.

The wilderness is something that has always interested me, both on a literal and metaphorical level, and having been brought up in both Zimbabwe and Botswana, I have spent much of my life either living in or exploring some of the most beautiful wild places in Southern Africa.  It is no surprise, therefore that the bush and all that it entails has been a major source of inspiration for much of my work.

‘Wilderness’ is a debatable term these days, and there are times when I wonder whether it actually still exists, despairing over this over populated, over developed world, where just the thought of something unexplored gives us license to bulldoze our way in, and exploit it.

The call of a jackal in the wilderness

The call of a jackal in the wilderness

Although exploitation is rife is in Southern Africa, there are however, still places that one can go to feel a sense of the wild, and one of these places is the Okavango Delta in Botswana. This vast inland delta is situated in the north western section of the country and is approximately 18,000 sq. km’s in size. The Okavango River originates on the Benguela Plateau in S.E Angola and enters Botswana at Mohembo. After a 500 metre drop, the land levels out in Botswana, which causes the main Okavango River to divide into a number of rivers, floodplains and smaller channels, forming the Okavango Delta system. The resultant slow pace of the river allows for sedimentation and the establishment of the swampy vegetation.

As teenagers, we used to fly in and out of the delta on a regular basis as my father was a pilot and he often had work up there. We were based in Francistown, which was a relatively short distance away, and in time I will write a fuller account of this period of my life. Suffice it to say that the memory of those trips has remained deep in my psyche, and has influenced much of what I do now.

A picture of me in the Okavango Delta 1970

A picture of me in the Okavango Delta 1970

So my recent trip to Botswana was one of those rare opportunities to go and see for myself whether the playground of my youth was still as wild and untouched as I remember it. Although there were obviously changes, mainly the result of the mushrooming safari industry, overall I was not disappointed and was thrilled to be back in this unbelievable place.

A view of the Okavango Delta from the air

A view of the Okavango Delta from the air

A view of the Okavango Delta from the air

A view of the Linyanti River, part of which forms the border with Namibia

An aerial view of a section of the delta

An aerial view of a section of the delta

Hippo

Hippo

A flight over the Okavango is an exhilarating experience, to have one’s nose pressed against the plane window, as one scans the papyrus patchwork below. It is a vast and watery landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see. The river and all its tributaries form a dense maze of water and floating papyrus, that creates an ever changing, ever moving scene.

Most people fly into the delta by light aircraft and land at one of the many sand airstrips that have been built to accommodate the safari industry, and the drive from the airstrip to the camps can be a great opportunity to view game, large herds of which can be seen grazing quietly amongst the long grass. The trees that grow on the islands in the delta are magnificent and vary in species according to the area.

Driving from the airstrip to our camp

Driving from the airstrip to our camp

A typical view of the papyrus vegetation

A typical view of delta vegetation

A view across the water

The view from my tent

The Okavango is home to all of Africa’s big game and a multitude of smaller mammals, fish, insects, and birds, and to lie in bed at night, listening to the sounds of the animals, grunting and swishing their way through the water, it is truly Africa at its best.

Elephant crossing the Linyanti River

Elephant crossing the Linyanti River

An egret catches a ride on the back of a buffalo

An egret catches a ride on the back of a buffalo

There is so much that one can attempt to say about the Okavango Delta, but words cannot really do justice to the experience of spending two weeks in this paradise, so in my exhibition, which is just the beginning of what I hope will become a much greater body of work, I have tried to bring the viewer close up to some of the things I saw, and to share just a whisper of the magnificent delta magic.

Another day in paradise

Another day in paradise

A few months after this trip, I had an opportunity to visit the Richtersveld, so in my next post, I will show some images of the desert.

Categories: Exhibitions, Inspiration, Landscapes | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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