As promised in my last post, Heritage Day, here’s a little rundown of what you can expect on a visit to Lesedi Cultural Village. If you are visiting or living in Johannesburg or Pretoria, it’s certainly a great place to spend half a day and learn about some of South Africa’s peoples. It’s located in the Cradle of Humankind, to the North of Johannesburg and West of Pretoria. You will need your camera handy because there will be lots of great photo opportunities.
Learn about the warrior Zulus and see their stick fighting. Be sure to greet their lookout sentry before entering their village or you might be in trouble.
The artistic Ndebele tribe decorate their homes and clothes with bright geometric patterns.
The Pedi tribe wear kilts, the story being that they lost a battle when they thought the approaching Scotsmen in kilts were women in skirts and therefore did not raise the alarm or attack them. Since then the Pedi have worn kilts to remind them not to fall for such trickery again.
We met the Sotho who wear conical hats and warm blankets to stave off the cold of mountain living.
We also learnt about various marriage traditions:
Find out which group of women are the best value for money (or should that be value for cows?) when it comes to their brideprice.
Zulu women wear red hats once they are married. Our guide teased that sometimes it would be sewn into the woman’s hair to prevent her removing it, ever.
I think he was teasing.
Although he also showed us an uncomfortable looking wooden pillow stand which he said facilitated sleeping with the red hat on.
The Ndebele tribe, on the other hand, traditionally give the newly promised or married woman a heavy leather skirt (which translated from their language is called a ‘kidnap skirt’) to make running away difficult because of its weight. Escape from her new husband is further hindered by metal rings worn on her ankles and around her neck.
Lesedi is an interactive experience. Some of the things you’ll get the opportunity to do include:
- Tasting a Mopane worm – these dried shrivelled caterpillars (they are called worms, but they are in fact caterpillars) look deeply unappetising. I couldn’t quite manage to take a bite, but I did lick one.
It was very salty. I read somewhere that you can actually buy tinned mopane worms in local supermarkets so I’ll be keeping an eye out. Apparently they are highly nutritious.
- Practice greetings in various languages – Each time we were introduced to a tribe we were instructed how to greet them correctly. The Xhosa language, in particular, is difficult to imitate with the clicking sounds it uses.
- Spit on stones – your mother may have told you that spitting is a dirty habit, but it’s Zulu custom to spit on a stone and toss it into a circle to appease the spirits and ensure a safe onward journey. The bigger the stone, the better.
Dance – It would be rude not to.
Throughout the morning, an all-singing-all-dancing cast of around 20 people worked hard popping up in various guises and costumes throughout the tour, demonstrating customs and crafts and giving us snapshot insights into village life before literally singing and dancing for us in a multicultural show to round off the morning.
During the show, the Ancestors are called with a manic, ear splitting drum roll and choking smoke. The dancing becomes increasingly frenetic, causing costume malfunctions and near collisions between dancers and audience, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and, if only for a moment, you can believe that the Ancestors have indeed awoken and that you have entered a primal and mysterious space where just about anything can happen
When we went, there was a large group of local tourists who seemed to have as much fun, if not more than the foreign tourists. There were clearly dance moves and song lyrics that went straight over our heads, but had the South Africans in stitches.
I have no way of telling the whether they were genuine Zulus or Pedis or Ndebelles or how accurate their Xhosa clicking was, but the whole experience was informative and engaging. It’s one to add to the “must see” list next time we have visitors.
You can also stay at Lesedi. There are, to quote our guide: “Nice guest-y houses. Verrrrry peace-y-ful”. I suspect they are mostly very peaceful, except when hoards of tourists tramp though twice daily.
The thatched guest houses did look nicely appointed. We peeked through the door, while the poor occupant, who had obviously been watching a rugby match hid in the bathroom until our tour group had passed by.
There’s a selection of gift shops by the entrance, which you can browse at the beginning or end of the tour. Inspired by all the dancing, I was quite tempted to buy one of these….
The Cultural shows run twice daily starting at 11.30am and and 16.30pm. There’s an onsite restaurant, so you can add lunch to the morning tour or dinner to the evening tour.
For further information about the cultural shows or accommodation,
please visit the Lesedi Website.