Posts Tagged With: Petra Terblanche

Mountain Streams and Dancing Fish

After a short break, I am back with the final leg of our journey through Limpopo, and we have left Mogalakwena en route to Louis Trichardt, making our way along the base of the magnificent Soutpansberg Mountains.

The Soutpansberg Mountains

The Soutpansberg Mountains

The weather is warm and Petra and I are in high spirits after our highly eventful holiday. 8 km’s beyond Louis Trichardt, on the R55 to Vivo, we take a right turn and drive a short distance through thick, lush bush up to the Madi a Thava Mountain Lodge, nestled amongst trees in a sprawling natural garden. As I climb from the dusty vehicle, I am engulfed in a cool refreshing breeze that wafts down from the mountain. Savouring the quality of the air, I wander across to the edge of the car park and remember the sense of safety this place provides, embraced by the protective arms of the mountain. I have been here before, a long time ago, and it feels good to be back. I am eager to see all the developments and to check out their amazing collection of art. This lodge is the perfect place to round off our trip, for not only do I know that I will be creatively inspired here, I also know that it is going to be a wonderfully comfortable way to spend the final few days of my holiday.

The entrance to the lodge is as I remember it, open and inviting, with large Venda pots on the verandah giving just a hint of what is to come. I am filled with anticipation as I enter the building, and feel immediately at home in the bright and tastefully furnished interior, filled to capacity with beautiful examples of African arts and crafts…and I don’t mean curio art, but really good pottery, woodwork, embroidery and beading from the Limpopo region.

Madi a Thava

Madi a Thava

A sculpture by

A sculpture that announces the presence of the Dancing Fish Gallery

We are greeted by our friend, Marcelle Bosch, who is the owner, manager and general overall superwoman who maintains and continually develops this little piece of Paradise.

Marcelle Bosch

Marcelle Bosch

Marcelle is a woman of vision, passionately committed to promoting local artists and providing an outlet through which they can sell their work, both at the lodge and through her very comprehensive website. She is actively involved in helping and motivating these artists, offering workshops and discussion groups through which they can inspire and motivate each other.

She is also extremely knowledgeable about the customs and traditions of the people who live in the area, specifically the Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho groups, and she offers excursions that take visitors into the rural areas to meet the local people, so that they can learn first hand about the rich cultural heritage of Limpopo.

A guest to the lodge, even an overnight visitor, cannot help but be affected by the richness of these cultures, for there is visual evidence of them everywhere, from the decor in the main lodge, to the sculptures that adorn the colourful, stylish bedrooms, to the informative Dancing Fish Gallery, which is situated across the lawn from the main lodge building.

Then, in a sunlit room attached to the lodge, Marcelle has gathered together a group of local women, who are beavering away happily on their sewing machines, producing colourful linen and other soft items, which are available to buy through her shop, but are also sold through outlets around the country, and beautifully displayed in all the lodge bedrooms.

The gorgeous bedrooms at Madi a Thava

The gorgeous bedrooms at Madi a Thava, adorned with colourful soft furnishings made by the Madi a Thava art group

These colourful cushions are an example of the work produced by the women at Madi a Thava

These colourful cushions are an example of the work produced by the women at Madi a Thava

The food at the lodge is delicious and on this warm Sunday evening we sit out on the open verandah and enjoy a candle-lit dinner with entertainment provided by the chef, who after pounding on his drum, sings to us with his most amazing baritone voice! I am delighted and savour the moment as much as the meal that follows.

We use the next couple of days to go out and see the local artists in the area, all within easy driving distance from the lodge. I have written about these visits to Thomas Kubayi and the Northern Sotho dance group in my previous blog posts.

So on the final day, we are relaxing within the grounds of the lodge and I am spending time enjoying The Dancing Fish Gallery. This houses an impressive collection of Tsonga, Venda and Northern Sotho art and artifacts, beautifully curated by Petra Terblanche, with whom I have been traveling. Petra’s passionate interest in the local traditions and her long history as a museum curator are clearly obvious as one enters the cool interior of the building. She has carefully laid out the display so that it takes the visitor on a journey through the traditions of each cultural group, with fine examples of their art and craft.

Petra Terblanche, curator of the Dancing Fish Gallery

Petra Terblanche, curator of the Dancing Fish Gallery

To view a sampling of work on show at the Dancing Fish Gallery, click on the images below:

The story unfolds through beautifully designed posters, produced by Petra’s friend, Harold Kolkman, a social anthropologist from Holland, with whom Petra has worked on numerous other projects.

A poster that explains the history ad traditions of the Hananwa people

A poster that explains the history and traditions of the Hananwa people

After a visit to this gallery, one becomes aware of just how fascinating the history of Limpopo Province is, with the arts and crafts from the area so colourful and multi layered. As it is my last day in the area, I find I am reluctant to leave this richly creative environment, trying to absorb as much as I can before I return to my studio. I stop before a quote by Nelson Mandela.

“The collision of culture does not necessarily lead to subjugation & hegemony. It may also lead to subtle cross-pollination of ideas, words, customs, art-forms, culinary & religious practices.
This dynamic interaction has always played a role in cultural enrichment which has resulted in an extraordinary fertile & unique South African culture which binds our nation in linguistic, cultural, culinary, & religious diversity in so many forms”.                                                                                                                                                           -Nelson Mandela

It strikes me that this place and the work that is being done here, is a perfect example of what Mandela was speaking about. There is a sense of good people helping other people in an atmosphere of unity and respect and to stay at the lodge is to experience a wonderful blend of cultures, all brought together in a very unique way.

Marcelle is constantly upgrading, renovating and developing the property, all the time keeping her eye on the bigger picture, which is to maintain high standards in ethical, community based tourism. This year, amongst many other things, she is embarking on a series of creative workshops, which will be held at the lodge and facilitated by well known South African artists. For participants this should be an absolute treat…to learn and be creative in a creative environment, whilst staying in the luxury of the lodge, spoiled by excellent service and surrounded by the peace and infinite beauty of the mountains.

The three days that we have spent here have left me rested, restored and inspired. It is the perfect end to a wonderful, enriching journey, and now it is time to go home to process all that I have seen and experienced.

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Stitching Stories

It’s night time in the Bushveld and I sit under a canopy of stars. From the foliage alongside my verandah, a chorus of insects provides the backdrop to the frogs that croak melodiously from the banks of the Mogalakwena River, flowing silently not far beyond the boundary fence. Far across the treetops comes the call of a nightjar, and behind me, high in a tree, the intermittent, soft tones of an owl. The night orchestra is joined by the occasional bray of a donkey and superimposing it all, come the lyrics of “Mandela”, blasting from a transistor radio in the nearby village. The balmy air brushes my skin gently and I sit here in the darkness, breathing deeply, wallowing in the sensation of a night in the African bush. I don’t want to move, for this is balm to my soul, so I linger a while longer before disappearing under the mosquito net and drifting off to sleep. At three in the morning, I surface briefly and hear the distant throb of drums coming from the direction of the village. It is a comforting sound that I know well from my childhood, living on a Zimbabwe farm.

I awake in the morning to a cacophony of bird calls; little brown jobs twittering outside my window, and the screech of a Woodland Kingfisher as it swoops from tree to tree. Not far off, there is the distinctive chatter of Guinea fowl and Natal Francolins going about their way. I blink at the sun that is pouring in through the window and when I hear the tinkle of cow bells and the swish, swish of someone sweeping the driveway, I become alert and realize that a new day has begun at the Mogalakwena Artist’s Retreat and that I’d better get up to see what’s going on.

My room at the Mogalakwena Artist's Retreat

My room at the Mogalakwena Artist’s Retreat

The Artist's Retreat at Mogalakwena, near Alldays,Limpopo Province

The Artist’s Retreat at Mogalakwena, near Alldays,Limpopo Province

The comfortable rooms of the artists retreat at Mogalakwena

The comfortable rooms of the artists retreat at Mogalakwena

As I gather my things together, I hear the sound of the gate being opened and the voices of laughing women.

I am excited, for this is what I have been waiting for… a chance to meet these women and see the work that is being done at the Mogalakwena Craft Art Centre, which is situated just across the garden from the retreat. The farm, Mogalakwena is owned by the Coetsee family, and is situated near Alldays in Limpopo Province, South Africa. There are various sections to the farm, and apart from the art retreat, they offer accommodation at their luxury river lodge and bush camp. From the time that I first read Craft Art in South Africa, authored by Dr.Elbe Coetsee, I have been intrigued by the work being done by this remarkable woman, and I look forward to meeting both her and the women who work at the art centre.

Elbe Coetsee, founder of the Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation

Elbe Coetsee, founder of the Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation

It is most fortuitous, therefore, that my friend Petra Terblanche, with whom I am traveling, is currently living in this tranquil paradise and what’s more, she is directly involved in the project and is documenting and collating the creative work being produced on the farm.

The Mogalakwena Craft's Centre

The Mogalakwena Craft’s Centre

A group of women from the nearby village come each day to this centre to embroider and document their stories

A group of women from the nearby villages come each day to this centre to embroider and document their stories

I learn that Elbe established The Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation in 1994, in an effort to improve the lives and living conditions of the local communities. With a PhD in social entrepreneurship and a deep interest in the craft art business, she was ideally positioned to set up the foundation and the craft art centre from which the women could work. Her main aim is to create sustainable, value-adding employment opportunities for disadvantaged women and to restore and develop traditional craft art skills that for various reasons have to some extent become dormant or lost. She is actively involved in the product development, raising standards so that the goods are suitable for the international market. The products produced at the centre are sold through a variety of South African outlets and can be viewed and purchased from the Mogalakwena Gallery, which opened in Capetown in 2008.

Another important aspect of Elbe’s work is the research, documentation and preservation of African oral history, traditions and material culture. Her foundation promotes research with the aim to further not only the understanding and knowledge in the field of anthropology, ecology and social entrepreneurship in Africa, but also to establish a national and international awareness and appreciation of African culture.

I am shown around the craft art centre by Alletha, whose task is to see that everything runs smoothly whilst Elbe is in Capetown running the gallery. Although the women produce a wide array of goods, the work that most captures my attention when I enter their workshop are the delightful embroideries that document the local African traditions. These beautifully rendered embroideries are physical documents of traditional beliefs and customs that can be passed on down through the generations. It is Petra Terblanche’s task to photograph them all and to create a written and digital record of all the work produced, ensuring that these valuable stories will not be lost.

To view some of these embroideries, click on the thumbnails below:

On many levels the work being done here is of interest to me, for not only am I a fibre artist with a passion for textiles, I believe that it is important to journal and document the rich stories of our lives, be it for personal, therapeutic purposes or as a record for future generations. I am also admiring of women who are committed to helping those who are less fortunate. I believe that the empowerment of women is essential in this modern society and I applaud women like Elbe and Petra, who are giving so much of themselves to help others.

Three days later, we have crossed the Mogalakwena River, and are making our way along a dusty road towards the magnificent Soutpansberg Mountains that are beckoning us from the horizon, and I am musing upon the fact that despite this country’s problems, there are many good people beavering away, doing their bit towards creating a stronger and healthier society.

In my next post, the final in this Limpopo series, I will be sharing the work of yet another amazing woman…!

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Dancing in Limpopo

One of the things that excites me most when traveling through Africa, is having an opportunity to watch traditional African dance. I am enthralled by the expressive nature of the dance, the uninhibited passion, colour and movement, which for an artist of any genre, provides heaps of inspiration.

So we are still on our travels through Limpopo and Petra, having been the cultural officer of Limpopo for many years, is the perfect person to travel with, as she knows so many good dance groups and is always able to introduce me to dance that I have never seen before. This province has a rich cultural heritage, so is a particularly good area to find amazing dancers with beautiful vibrant costume. On my last visit in 2009 I saw great examples of Tsonga dance, images of which are still clearly etched in my mind.

A swirl of fabric during a traditional Tsonga dance

A swirl of fabric during a traditional Tsonga dance

A Tsonga healer dances up a storm

A Tsonga healer dancing in a village near Tzaneen

This trip, Petra has arranged for us to visit a dance group in the village of  Mamaila, home of kgošhi (chief) Rhapahlelo. She does not know much about them, but was very impressed with their costumes when she saw them at a cultural festival some months ago, and has decided that this would be a good time to find out more. The leader of the group, Sarah Machete, is here to meet us and leads us to the local school where her group are all assembled.

Sarah Machete, a teacher and member of the dance group

Sarah Machete, a teacher and member of the dance group

We are introduced to the group of women, seated in colourful array upon the school chairs and are told that we are now in the company of the Kopanang Fighters! They are VaBirwa wa Raphahlelo, a Northern Sotho group, closely related to the Lobedu of the rain queen Modjadji fame.

I smile at the name they have given themselves, but looking at this group of fiercely proud Northern Sotho women, it certainly seems to fit. I sense that I am amongst empowered African women, who have identified a dream and are following it. The ladies are eager to share their story and Sarah recalls how it all began.

To begin with just a few women in the village got together to practice their traditional dance. They had no costumes and really just danced for recreation. Sarah, who is a teacher, used to see the group on her way to and from school. They encouraged her to join them, but Sarah says that she resisted, thinking “no, I am a teacher, I cannot do this dancing; this is for the illiterate women.” She also believed that she was too old and that her legs were too sore. However, she was persuaded, joined the group and found that the exercise was the best thing for her. Then they heard about competitions that were being held around the country and were encouraged to take part. Their first attempt failed, due to them not having proper shoes, so they went to a local businessman and performed in front of his shop to draw customers and he in turn bought takkies for the whole group. They took part in several more competitions, and though they didn’t win any prizes, they looked at those who were winning and made the necessary adjustments to their performance and dress.

The group began to grow as more women wanted to be a part of this positive and empowering initiative. Their costumes evolved from one show to the next and soon became the colourful uniform that it is to today. Despite the earlier disappointments, the women never gave up and after a particularly successful event at the Meropa Casino  in Polokwane, were soon winning all the prizes. Since then they have traveled far and wide and have performed at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, the State Theatre in Pretoria, at Parliament and even Robben Island. They have brought out a CD of their songs and dances and frequently receive requests to perform at important events. I am impressed by the group’s perseverance and determination to succeed and I now completely understand the significance of their name. These women have every reason to feel proud.

Their outfits are a colourful blend of Tsonga and Northern Sotho traditions, given a modern twist.

Click on the images below to get a feel of how feisty these ladies are!

It’s been a fun, interesting and inspiring morning and to crown it all before we leave, both Petra and I are presented with beautiful beaded head bands. I treasure my gift and will use it to remind me never to give up on my dreams.

The end of a happy morning, Petra and I are presented with beaded gifts

The end of a happy morning, Petra and I are presented with beaded gifts

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Marks from the Past at Makgabeng: Part 2

If you would like to read Part 1 of this series, click here

It’s Saturday 7th December 2013 and Petra and I have left the Makgabeng Lodge en route to our meeting on the mountain. We are heading in the general direction of the plateau, when Petra confesses that she is not absolutely sure where to go, but knowing that she is strongly intuitive, I spur her on, trusting that we will find our way. As we get closer to the sandstone cliffs, the red sand on the track is getting a whole lot softer and deeper, and Petra engages low gear, puts her foot down and we swerve and grind our way to higher, firmer ground. After taking a couple of wrong turns, we are confident that we are now on the right track, and as we make our way up through a gap in the hillside, we leave the valley behind.

Approaching the Makgabeng Plateau

Approaching the Makgabeng Plateau

As we reach the level of the top of the ridge, the landscape opens up to a completely different scene. Hidden beyond the rest of the world are small farm plots, scattered amongst the most spectacular, imposing domes of layered sandstone rocks. I feel that we have entered a sacred space, a place only known to the few who live here, and maybe a few lucky researchers who have been up this way to view the jewels that it holds.

An agricultural Eden on top of the Makgabeng Plateau

The Makgabeng Plateau

In every direction there are incredible mounds of rock

In every direction there are sculptured rock massifs

Not sure which way we are going, we make a stop at a homestead, situated at the foot of an impressive mountain peak. Fortunately we have found Jonas’s relatives who soon show us the way to his house at the base of the Thabananthlana peak. He is ready and waiting, eager to show us his playground amongst these spectacular rocks.

Jonas's family live at the base of the peak of Thabananthlana

Jonas’s family live close to the peak of Thabananthlana

Twenty minutes later, squatting on my haunches under a rock overhang, I am completely immersed in a world of trance dances, shamans and n/om (understood to be similar to chi or the life force).  For the first time, I am getting a fuller, clearer understanding of what these finely executed paintings on the rock wall above me, are all about. Suddenly it all makes sense, and as our guide, Jonas Tlouamma, describes the transfer of power from the dying eland to the one who drinks the blood, I am with him and can imagine this power he speaks of. He is mesmerizing to listen to, and speaks of these trance events with a passionate and eloquent  conviction. I realize how fortunate I am to be sitting here with him, as Jonas knows these hills intimately, having explored every inch of them on foot, and being largely responsible for finding and documenting most of the many hundreds of San, Khoekhoe and Northern Sotho sites that remain in this area. He worked for many years alongside Ed and Cathelijne Eastwood as they gathered information that culminated in the writing of their book Capturing the Spoor. Jonas is a master storyteller, but it is his vast knowledge of the area and it’s previous inhabitants that is the most impressive. He is passionate about his work and clearly enjoys sharing what he knows. I am enthralled and so grateful to him for making this such an adventure.

Jonas explains the meaning behind the beautifully executed San rock art

Jonas explains the meaning behind the beautifully executed San rock art

San rock art in the Makgabeng Plateau

San rock art in the Makgabeng Plateau

The animal on the left emerges from a crack in the rock, which according to Jonas suggests that it comes from the spirit world.

The animal on the left emerges from a crack in the rock, which according to Jonas suggests that it comes from the spirit world.

What makes Makgabeng such a remarkable rock art site, is that it has good examples of three clearly identifiable layers of history, with visual documents from the San, the Khoekhoe and the Northern Sotho all in the same area. In many cases they overlap and interlock, making it all the more fascinating. When inquiring about who came first to this area, I am told that the San arrived first, then the Khoekhoe, but that there was a long period of overlap and interraction, shown by the fact that in some cases the San art appears below the Khoekhoe and in other places it’s on top. The Northern Sotho arrived some time later.

This is the terrain in which these hundreds of rock art sites are hidden

This is the terrain in which these hundreds of rock art sites are hidden

After listening to Jonas’s account of the San, whose delicately painted works are fairly well known and recognized, I am eager to see what other sites there are and whether there is any variation to this theme and style. We walk a short distance over flat expanses of rocks and descend into a shady stream bed, before climbing up a steep and overgrown pathway to a well hidden overhang. As I push past the last bush, I gasp not only for breath, of which I am extremely short, but from amazement at the scene that lies before me. A rock overhang covered with white drawings. This I am told, is a Northern Sotho female initiation site. The drawings are predominantly white and have obviously been executed with fingers, as the lines are much thicker than those fine line brush paintings of the San.  Much of the imagery in this and other sites appears to connect to female fertility, with the women’s aprons in various forms featuring very strongly.

Jonas explains the meaning of the symbols at this predominantly Khoekhoe rock art site

Jonas explains the meaning of the symbols at this predominantly Northern Sotho rock art site

This rock overhang contains clear finger painted images of women's aprons

This rock overhang contains clear finger painted images of women’s aprons

Making our way down through thick bush after viewing the viewing the Khoekhoe artwork

Making our way down through thick bush en route to the next site

We return to the car and after a short drive, park in the bush and follow Jonas through the dense undergrowth. I am entranced by the beauty around and above me, particularly the towering rock face that looms overhead, and am completely unaware that we are within metres of a major South African rock art site.

We are about to enter one of the most amazing overhangs that I have ever seen

We are about to enter one of the most amazing overhangs that I have ever seen

Before I know it, we have entered a cool rock overhang and Jonas has seated himself at the base of a frieze of dramatic protest art. He is watching for my reaction, and all I can say is ‘Wow!!!’ I have never seen anything like this before and take a moment to let it sink in. The graphics are incredible, with trains, railway lines and station intersections, along with wagons, people on horses and men standing rigid with shoulders hunched. The lines are thick, suggesting they were painted with fingers and the white pigment stands out in stark contrast to the ochre red sandstone walls.

Jonas relaxes beneath a frieze of Northern Sotho protest art

Jonas relaxes beneath a frieze of Northern Sotho protest art

A detail of the train taking the captives to jail in Pretoria

A detail of the train that has taken the captives to jail in Pretoria

Petra listens to Jonas as he explains the meaning of the artwork

Petra listens to Jonas as he explains the meaning of the artwork

A depiction of Boers, with a woman and child

A depiction of Boers, with a woman and child in the mid section

The overhang viewed from the far side

The overhang viewed from the far side

So who painted these images and what are they all about?

Jonas tells us that this mural is the work of the Northern Sotho or the Hananwa and documents the story of the Maleboho war of 1894. During this period, the Boer republic under Paul Kruger was in need of land and cheap labour for the mines, so in order to force people off the land and into the mines to earn money, a hut tax was instituted. Chief Maleboho, leader of the Hananwa, refused to pay, and Kruger gathered his forces together and attacked the Hananwa.
For many months Maleboho was able to hold out against the Boer forces, despite increasingly vicious tactics, which included the seizing of Hananwa cattle and the burning of their houses.
When it became clear that it was necessary, Maleboho headed to the hills for safety, but eventually hunger and thirst forced him to surrender and Maleboho and his men were loaded onto a train and taken to Pretoria, found guilty in a military court and jailed. In 1900 the British forces took Pretoria and in recognition of Maleboho’s valiant fight, he and his men were released and their land returned.
The whole story is documented on these rocks, beginning with scenes of armed men on horseback firing their weapons, and ending with Maleboho and his men being locked up in a Pretoria jail and the train leaving them behind. Central to the scene are railway lines going off in various directions and a very impressive train, which has so much movement it’s quite riveting to observe.

The telling of the story is very powerful and I sit there in silence for a while trying to absorb it, when Jonas suggests I have a closer look to see if I can find something else of interest. I inspect the wall, feeling the pressure of trying to find something I cannot see, with Jonas smiling knowingly in the background. Then to my delight, I see it! Beyond the layer of strong white marks of the resistance art, lie the tell tale delicate lines of the San. Men with bow and arrows, domestic animals which look like sheep and cattle, and the unmistakable stripes of zebra.

Fine depictions of animals, painted by the San

Fine depictions of domestic animals, painted by the San

San drawings of men with bows and arrows

San drawings of men with bow and arrows

I am completely blown away by this mountaintop gallery, and feel so filled to capacity that I can understand why it’s not possible to visit any more sites today. With almost a thousand sites to see, there is plenty of reason to return here someday.

We bid a fond farewell to our guide and teacher, the one and only Jonas Tlouamma, and criss-cross our way back across the plateau before descending into the valley.

On our way home, before leaving the village of Senwabarwana (previously Bochum), Petra pulls up alongside some deserted houses. This place, she tells me, is the original leper colony, started by Lutheran missionary and nurse, Helene Franze, over a hundred years ago. The houses are all empty, but interestingly have all their doors and windows in tact. Nothing appears to have been tampered with, and as we walk around from house to house the atmosphere is so eery and full of sadness that it forces me to wonder about the poor souls who once lived here, locked away from the outer world. One wonders what stories they could tell upon their cold cement walls.

The deserted leper colony at Bochum

The deserted Helene Franze leper colony at Senwabarwana

So here we have one more layer of history. I have so much to think about as we wend our way home, but one thing is clear that these layers and layers of silence have left me wanting to know more.

Surely if we can access and acknowledge the past, we can appreciate and live more fully in the present and make better informed decisions in the future?

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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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