One of the reasons why I travel is to experience a different culture so when I got the itinerary for my trip to South Africa, I was excited about the cultural tour to Lesedi cultural village.
Lesedi cultural village is situated in Gauteng about an hour drive from Johannesburg. It was established in 1993 and offers visitors a good insight into the different indigenous cultures in South Africa: you’ll learn about their way of life, traditions and their background in general.
Arriving at the village, we were ushered in with a welcome dance by women from the various villages. Afterwards, we watched a short video about the various indigenous tribes showing a bit of their history. We then proceeded to take a tour of the villages after.
The first village we visited was the Zulu village. The Zulu tribe is the largest of the indigenous tribe in South Africa. They hail from the KwaZulu-Natal province and have preserved a lot of their cultures for centuries. The guide (one of the Zulu men) started of by showing of a pile of stones close to the village gate explaining its significance. Zulu warriors would take a piece of stone and spit on it to signify good luck before proceeding for a battle. This only made sense because the Zulus are known to be great warriors. I guess that’s how they won a lot of their battles.
When entering the Zulu, we were asked to say some things in their language to the guard before we could go in. Visitors would have to make it clear that they come in peace to avoid being attacked. A general explanation was given about the village setting. The animals were kept in the center of the village and were protected. The reason being that wealth was measured by the number of cows you had. A man intending to marry a wife according to their culture had to bring eleven cows for the bride price! ELEVEN COWS!!! I could not help but calculate that in my head just to have an idea in monetary terms. They showed us some weapons that are used during battles and also explained the different attires worn by both men and women. Back in the days, the elaborate hat worn by the married Zulu women were sewn to their heads. She would require a sacrifice before she is allowed to remove her cap to wash her hair. I couldn’t help but imagine how the hair smelled when the cap was removed. Oh boy!
The next village on out tour was Basotho village. The Sotho people are known to be gentle, lacking the belligerent nature of the Zulus. They dwell more majorly in areas around the Drakensberg mountains and they dress up in blanket like attires. This is to protect them from the harsh cold weather around the mountains. The village layout was slightly different from the Zulu village. One particular feature of the village was a meeting area for men where they discussed the affairs of the village and women were prohibited from coming to the area (talk about being marginalized). I couldn’t help but ask the guide what sort of issues were being discussed. “Were they discussing how to get eleven cows to marry a wife?”
We proceeded to the Xhosa village next. Xhosa tribe are from the Eastern Cape and it is the tribe Nelson Mandela hailed from. They are known for the clicking sound they make when they speak their language. Our guide made us attempt pronouncing some words in Xhosa which was an epic fail for a lot of us in the group.
The last village on our tour was the Pedi village. It was already getting dark so we had to skip the Ndebele village. The Pedi men were dressed in Scottish tartan skirts. They wear this outfit in memory of the deception by the Scots whom they thought were women and failed to attack them during a battle as they approached. By the time they realized they were men, it was too late and they lost the battle. After a brief insight into the Pedi way of life, we were offered dried Mopani worms. Though I’ve had Mopani worms once in Victoria Falls and it tasted like crap, I went ahead and took a piece. Gladly, it wasn’t the worst mistake of my life.
After the village tours, we went back to the auditorium to watch a performance by the villagers. I must say, the South Africans love to dance. The sheer excitement on the faces of the performers was pure joy as they moved their feet all around the stage. A particular dance had them swinging their feet high up in the air which I doubt can be done by most people (I tried attempting it once. Let’s just say I’m done trying). The show lasted for about 40 minutes and we had dinner there afterwards before we called it a night.
If you are into cultural experiences, a visit to Lesedi cultural village is a must when in South Africa. They have rooms for lodging if you would like an overnight stay. You can find more information here. The cultural shows are done four times a day and I would recommend it to anyone intending to visit.