Roadtrip to Las Vendas

We travelled to what has been coined “Las Vendas” by the lovers of Venda, The Limpopo Province. On a mission to learn the culture, enjoy the warm weather and be one with the people we packed our bags and headed to the province of banana’s, Mangoes and Avocado’s. 

With perhaps the most enigmatic ambience of the Soutpansberg region, this is the traditional homeland of the Venda people, who moved to the area in the early 18th century. Even a short diversion from the freeway takes you through an Africa of mist-clad hilltops, dusty streets and mud huts. A land where myth and legend continue to play a major role in everyday life, Venda is peppered with lakes and forests that are of great spiritual significance, and its distinctive artwork is famous nationwide. It’s a somewhat forgotten corner of the country and utterly unlike anywhere else in the region. More than that, if your South African journey is lacking a slice of traditional Africa with an emphasis on culture rather than wildlife, this could be your place.

Venda Wedding Ceremony

We gatecrashed a wedding ceremony during our trip, pulled in by the vibrant colours of the Venda traditional clothing and loud drums and singing, we couldn’t resist. In a modernised world you would think everybody wants a white wedding and the traditional weddings that used to happen don’t occur as often anymore. We were pleasantly surprised when we experienced the welcoming of the bride into the grooms family that took place at a village called Ha-Khakhu in Limpopo.

Maidens carry gifts to present them to the grooms home, where the new wife will now live to learn the ways of the family.

The ceremony we gatecrashed wasn’t really a wedding but was more of a welcoming of the bride. After the lobola (dowry) negotiations and celebrations another ceremony of welcoming the bride is then planned where an exchange of gifts takes place and a lot of dancing and singing is mandatory. 

Maidens from the wife’s family queue with baskets on their shoulders filled with gifts for the grooms family. They dance and sing while walking to the home of the groom, taking the wife to her new home. She is then taken to the grooms home to be given rules and regulations of how to survive in the home ie. what time to start cooking, what time to wake up, what to cook and so forth. 

While the new Makoti (wife) is taught what she needs to know, she is allowed 3 sisters/assistants to lead her into her new role as a wife, this continues for over 3 months or even longer depending on the family.

A new post emphasising on wedding ceremonies in South Africa from all cultures will be published to give more detail on the ceremonies and rituals practiced during these ceremonies.

Tropic of Capricorn 

Here’s a quick question to get your trivia muscles flexing: what does Limpopo have in common with Botswana, Namibia, Madagascar, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Mozambique and Australia?

Limpopo, along with the other countries listed above, shares the unique position of places intersected by the Tropic of Capricorn. Starting at the Prime Meridian and heading eastwards, the Tropic of Capricorn passes through each of these locations along with the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Coral Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

But what exactly is the Tropic of Capricorn?

Also known as the Southern Tropic, the Tropic of Capricorn is one of the five major circles of latitude on the earth. It’s also the southern boundary of the tropics and indicates the southernmost latitude at which the sun can be seen directly overhead at midday.

Although the Tropic of Capricorn is an imaginary geographical line, the Capricorn Region of Limpopo is fortunately visible for all to see. Stretching from the Ysterberg Mountain tracing the lower limits of the Wolkberg Mountains to the Tropic of Capricorn in the north, the Capricorn Region has all the makings of an amazing road trip.

Touring Venda 

Amanda Sibiya on the road dusty roads of Ha-Khakhu, Venda.

When touring Venda we would Highly suggest you pack your sun screen and short shorts because the heat is on another level. The friendly people of Venda, mostly speak Venda and English is more if a second language so travelling with a local will be of benefit to you as you will be able to navigate around the province with ease.

Things to do in Venda

  • Mukondeni Pottery Village: This group of 15 women produce traditional- and contemporary-design pottery, including, pots, bowls and beads. It’s in Mukondeni, southeast of Elim.
  • Thohoyandou Arts and Craft Centre: One starting point for cultural explorations is this centre, which displays craftwork including carved wood animals, prints, local pottery and traditional drums
  • Twananani Textiles: In the village of Mbokota southeast of Elim, local women create stunning, colourful textiles using traditional Tsonga designs through batik, hand painting, block printing, dying, beadwork and embroidery.
  • Lake Fundudzi: One of South Africa’s largest natural lakes, Lake Fundudzi is situated near the northern part of the Soutpansberg. Visitors need special permission from Venda leaders to go there which makes its allure even more powerful. 

There are so many other things to explore in Las Vendas and the list above is just our favourites. If you travel to South Africa and need a pinch of rich culture, make your way to the Limpopo Province.

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Ephasini Lamabhudango