The Ndebele Village in Mpumalanga province of South Africa is one that is as unexplored as it is promising. By Shubhanjana Das
Ndebele, the name literally translates to ‘the place where the sun rises’ in the Ndebele, Swazi, Xhosa, and Zulu languages. It encompasses the southern half of the Kruger National Park, known for its unparalleled biodiversity and the Blyde River Canyon. The canyon is amongst the world’s largest and is referred to as the green canyon due to its sub-tropic foliage. All those amazing facts aside, that’s not why we’re talking about Mpumalanga here.
It is the kaleidoscopically-painted, traditional homesteads, and the colourful cultural craft works of the Ndebele people that has brought our attention to it.
In little town Siyabuswa in the cultural heartland of Mpumalanga, one of the Ndebele villages, where the people are linguistically related to the KwaZulu Natal’s Zulu tribe and the Ndebele people of Zimbabwe, their history is put on display in the most vivid manner possible. The Kghodwana Cultural village is the hub of their artistic and historic expression through vivid geometric designs and distinct traditional clothing which makes for photo ops like none other. The coming together of colours, triangular and rectangular shapes drawn on their huts by the women, make learning about the history of their people seem like almost leafing through vividly-graphic painting books.
A tour around the village showcases the stunning crafts that Ndebele women create in form of bracelets, necklaces and mats woven from dry grass and gala blankets adorned with their characteristic intricate beadwork. These generational skills are passed down by the women in the family. You can also visit one of the Royal Kraals to admire the heavy brass rings and anklets adorned by married women around ankles and necks as a sign of their wealth.
The best time to visit Mpumalanga is September and October, the spring months when the temperature is just perfect and the wind very soothing.
You can fly to Johannesburg which is just 144 kilometres away from Siyabuswa and take a cab from the airport to the cultural heartland of Mpumalanga.