Friday, 2 March 2012

Lesedi, South Africa

Lesedi, situated in the Republic of South Africa, the beautiful country, located at the southern tip of Africa. Lesedi Cultural Village is Gauteng's most exciting showcase of African Culture. One gets a glimpse of the art, dance, history and tribal legends of African people here. Set in the pristine bushveld and rocky hills of Lanseria, Lesedi is about less than an hour's drive from Johannesburg.

Occupying the front seat of the car, to go on clicking my camera all the way, I tried to extract as much information as I could from the guide. The charm of natural view and the beautiful road before me, was mesmerizing.  
M1 North, then we turn West to N1 at the Woodmead interchange ..... then from Lanseria off ramp, we take the R512 North...... proceed for another 40 kms ..... and then on the left hand side of the road I could see the name clearly written on a board, "Lesedi Cultural Village"

A warm welcome awaited us on this pleasant winter afternoon as we arrive at Lesedi. The villagers in cute costumes and bear hugs made us feel at home instantly. 

As we walked through the gate of the village, great traditional African music/song/dance lifted our spirits. 

Vibrant craft market and curio shops with their decorative walls await you to choose and pick for family and friends back home ...

Without losing a single moment I got down to do the honours and within minutes came out with a huge loot of curios for each of my friends back home :)  

House with colourful Ndebele design. They seem to love playing with colours and artistically designed patterns.

As we take a walk around the village, a whole lot of fascinating aspects of vibrant and colourful traditions of African lifestyle unfolds before us. 
The discovery begins at the Ndebele village where the introduction to a cultural experience precedes a multi media presentation on the history and origins of today's 'Rainbow Nation'. This is followed by a guided tour of the other four ethnic homesteads : Xhosa, Zulu, Pedi and Basotho. 

The Ndebele women weave dreams with traditional bead craft. These women in the picture above are displaying their ware made of beads, including the dresses they are wearing.
Beads are also very common in men, women and children, can be seen sporting on their hands, necks and legs. 

Talking of this wonderful craft of beads, one of the best examples can be the South African flag, hung behind the chairs of the judges of the highest court of justice, the Constitutional Court on the Constitution Hill, Johannesburg. This entire flag is made of beads. I was amazed to see the fine craft and couldn't believe my eyes, kept touching and feeling it for a long time to convince myself, wondering how much effort/patience and expertise have gone into completing such a unique, intricately designed product.

This villager is on duty, at the gate of the Zulu homestead, guarding his village. The young men of the village do this in turns.

The village physician, who does mumbo-jumbo to cure the ill.

This is the Basotho homestead, a couple is narrating the history and legends of  the Basotho tribe. Lesedi is a Sotho word meaning 'Light'. One can easily identify this gentleman here is from the Basotho tribe by the colour and pattern of his blanket and the conical straw hat on his head. Our guide explained as we walked from one boundary of tribe to the other, their distinct style of construction, use of a weapon, role of each member of a family, customs and tradition. 

Five traditional homestead can be seen in Lesedi :
  The Zulus with their fighting sticks and cozy beehive huts. 
The Xhosas with their perfectly thatched rondawels and distinctive white blankets. 
The rhythmic drums and whistles of The Pedi tribe. 
The conical straw hats and thick colored blankets of the Basotho tribe.
 The bead work and colourful homes of the Ndebele. 

Had a lovely time interacting with the villagers of Basotho tribe sitting by the fire. They wear their colourful blankets as shawls. The pretty conical straw hats look lovely on them. They are from the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. The roofs of their huts are thickly thatched to protect from the biting cold. 

Learning to speak a word or two in Xhosa :) Oh its not so difficult after all ...
Molo : Hello
Ndiyabulela : Thank you 
Siya Namkela Nonke : Welcome
Ewe : Yes
Hayi : No

These are the huts of the Xhosa tribe. Their huts are made of mud  but whitewashed, as a result of influence of the early Europeans. The walls are adorned in colourful decorations with natural  paints. 
Local families live here permanently in all the five homesteads and visitors  are allotted huts for over night stay. 

My interest in the life and time of Nelson Mandela was one of the most important reasons prompting me this visit to Lesedi. Here I could see   Xhosa, Mandela's tribe and its culture. Xhosas are known for their traditional chest beating dances with skill and energy, painted faces and  wooden tobacco pipes. 

Xhosa tribe is particularly known for their striking colours and detailed patterned blankets, which they all (both men and women) wear as shawls.

 The door way of these huts are made very low, so that one needs to droop while entering the house, showing respect in the process to the owner. We were lead inside the hut of the Xhosa village headman. We sat down and took part in a prayer meet. Although couldn't understand a single word, the prayer touched my soul deep. 
The women are always made to sit by the right side, i e behind the door so that they are protected in case of  an attack. It is always the men who would enter a house first leading the women for their safety. 

It was such a pleasure walking through the four traditional homesteads in Lesedi, talking and learning a few words of Zulu, Ndebele, Pedi or Xhosa. Our guide animatedly explained to us about the lifestyles and different rituals of each tribe of the village. 
The Pedi tribe, the agriculturists came down from the Limpopo province. Legend has it that, while fighting the war against the British, they found the Scottish Highlanders dressed in 'Kilts', mistaking them for women, they refused to fight, thus, losing the battle. As a remembrance of this, even today they wear kilts. 

This young man from Pedi tribe was busy crafting tools and curios with wood/bamboo. He burst out laughing when I asked him to show me how to curve a knife out of a piece of wood. He asked me, of all things why a knife! The young man laughed even more when I said I need a knife to protect myself.
My appreciation of his typical Pedi kilt and a colourful beaded neck band seemed to amuse him a lot.  

O wow .... look at the gentleman in all his traditional finery.
Their costumes are very colourful. This Zulu warrior is sporting a traditional blanket which they wear like a shawl and an apron of goat skin. 
Zulus are the proud sons of Shaka Zulu, the most feared warrior of the great Zulu history. They measure their wealth in cattle. This wealth is very important to buy a bride, more cattle means more brides.    

Another beautiful craft! This young Zulu woman is weaving a mat like the one she is sitting on, in front of her hut. Showing me how to weave it with her deft hand, she said its very simple. Whew.... not that easy for me ....:) Nevertheless, I said,   Siyabonga (Thank you, in Zulu) giving her a hug,  
".... Ngiyajabula ukukwazi" (pleased to meet you), she said. 
 I fell in love with the Zulu huts which are thatched in a unique way in fine layers, making them look like bee hives. 

This young man of Zulu tribe was too sweet to model facing my camera, I went on clicking ...... only to realize soon enough that my group had left me and gone further ahead leaving me far behind ... had to run and catch up with them.

These beautifully thatched Zulu beehive huts with geometrical patterns painted on the walls are cosy and  comfortable for a over night stay for that perfect feel of a romantic African night. Although they look like traditional thatched huts from out side, you can find all the facilities and comfort of a luxurious hotel once inside. 
I stood there in awe, marvelling at the terrific construction skill of  the Zulu tribe. 

Hey you guys look great in your traditional attire !
They are the Zulu villagers.   
"Sanibonani", they said in unison, meaning 'welcome'. 
I said, "Siyabonga" (thank you)

One can easily notice the use of beads on their head band, skirt, top and neck band. Married women wear this traditional head rest.

In between the other huts, this tiniest little one, in the Zulu homestead caught my fancy. The guide explained .....  "This is how the tribes keep the vegetables cool and preserve for a long time........."  Wow, a refrigerator!  

After completion of the tour of all five homesteads of Lesedi, we gather round a fire that was ready and waiting for us. 
 Other groups from different countries too joined us. Had a great time laughing and merrymaking around the Bonfire. 
It was mid July, winter in South Africa and by the time we completed our tour, it was late evening. The night gradually turned very cold. The bonfire warmed us giving the feel of a true African night out.  

Entrance to the cultural hall 

The sun set over the African bush, making the night very dark and cold. Warming ourselves for sometime sitting around the fire was great. But now it was time for some more fun and activities. We were soon escorted to the 'Boma' a hall for traditional singing and dancing depicting stories that date back to the days of their ancestors.

 It was fun time now. Here the guests and the families of the village met for the traditional dance Boma for the 'Giant Ingoma" - song and dance of all five villages. In Zulu, 'Ingoma' literally means "song" and is associated with different forms of traditional male group dances.

A story teller introduces the guests to the ancient legends of different tribes. Then begins the traditional dance performance with the pounding of the drum beats, kicking and jumping as high as possible, stomping their feet vigorously. Soon a competition starts between the tribes. 

In the Giant Ingoma Dance Boma, the drums beat rhythmically. The young women with their colourful beaded costumes add to the night to turn it a magical one.
 The dance floor erupts as Zulus in cultural dress leap and stamp. Pedi women execute a cheeky, hip-swaying rain dance. South Africa has its own Rain Queen – Majoji - who reigns in Limpopo Province.
 “Now, help us summon our ancestors!”, the story teller announces. Herbs are scattered over the open fire, around which the show takes place, releasing a sweet scent filling up the entire hall. 

Dancing becomes increasingly frenzied, culminating in men wearing zebra masks leaping across the floor.

Gradually the dancers pulled us to the dance floor and we all started tapping our feet magically along with the rhythmic pounding of the drum beats. Trying to keep pace with them going round and round the fire we danced till late into the night holding hands. It was a wonderful experience of the spirit of Ubuntu at this unique cultural venue !

It was dinner time, and finally the grand buffet of traditional African food  'Nguni beef', 'Bushveld lamb', African fowl' and home grown maize, in the huge traditional dining hall of Nyma Choma restaurant.

The buffet was a culinary feast which is layed in a traditionally decorated dining hall serving an exotic African ethnic meal. The dinner was great, with meat of Crocodile and Ostrich, apart from the usual turkey, beef, lamb and chicken. Tried to be quite sporting by serving myself some Croc meat. Found the meat hard, but felt great to have tasted a meat I could never imagine eating back home. The turkey was great. I happily settled down with some lamb and chicken, of course there were plenty of local greens and fruits too.

The restaurant is divided into three parts namely, East Africa, North Africa and South Africa. The guests can choose a dining experience whereby absorbing the variety of colours, sights, tastes and sounds of different African customs. All this is complemented by the restaurant's authentic setting and vibrant colour murrals illustrating African heritage and legends. 

It was one wonderful experience, a life time of knowledge ! 
Every attraction of Lesedy is not only fascinating, but absolutely enriching. For those culturally inquisitive, a visit to Lesedi is a must while at South Africa.  


  1. Ruprekha,

    Got so engrossed in this trip with you that I let my tea go cold. Where is my curio?

    Take care

    1. So sad for your tea Jack :)
      Will sure remember the curio, when we meet ....
      Thanks a lot.

  2. A fascinating and comprehensive account

    1. Thank you so much Onkar, means a lot ...

  3. Very exciting trip indeed.I feel as if I were there too

    1. O how nice, thanks for visiting Jayanta

  4. Thanks Ruprekha for taking us through the fantasy Zululand in S Africa. The pictures and words described your lovely experience very well:)

    1. My pleasure Rahul ji, so nice of you to visit and appreciate.Thank you.

  5. Since I probably will never visit South Africa, I really enjoyed looking at your many photos. It is a different world, isn't it? Thanks for sharing, Ruprekha.

    1. Thanks a lot gigihawaii. Yes it is indeed a different world, I simply loved my stay at SA. Will post more on SA.

  6. This was so enticing. My idea of visiting SA has strengthened further. Thanks for the lovely narration

    1. Thank you so much Insignia. Yes, do make a trip to SA, it's a great country.

  7. It is a fascinating account of your trip to these distant parts told in a gripping style.I got the feel of visiting these places so faithful is your description.The only scary thing was the mumbo jumbo physician !!!

    1. Thank you so much Kp for your words of appreciation. I am so glad you loved going through this account.
      :) :) and sorry to scare you with that mumbo jumbo physician.

  8. how wonderful it is to be able to experience a new and different culture & way of life. i must say very fortunate you are Ruprekha. it is such a blessing this adventure of life is :)
    the pictures, the narration everything brought it alive

  9. Thanks for your encouraging words Sujatha. I'm so glad you enjoyed traveling along through my pictures and narration.
    Thanks once again for dropping by....

  10. Beautiful photos and got opportunity to see real pictures on south african life,cultures n heritage through "Feelings". It seems africans are amazing people with colorful surroundings,i.e dresses,houses,etc .....some similarity is there with Nagas.

    1. Thanks Pranoy. I'm so glad you enjoyed this account of Lesedi.
      Yes indeed, they are amazing.

  11. @ Vatinam+
    Wish you a good day and full of joy...

  12. Thank you so much, wish you too a pleasant day ....

  13. Replies
    1. How can I thank you enough Kavita, you are the one who encouraged me to write.

  14. It was a virtual tour around the Lesedi Cultural Village. The brilliance of colors were a treat. A wonderful post.

    1. Thank you so much. Your words of appreciation means a lot....
      Do visit again.

  15. hello Aunty, your writing paints the picture of south African culture very well. It was lovely to read it and experience the place through your words!

  16. Thanks a lot for dropping by Aayushi. I'm so glad you liked to travel along through the pictures and my words.

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