If you’ve ever been curious about the people who paint their homesteads so beautifully and dress so ornately, then you should pay a visit to the Mapoch Ndebele Cultural Village north-west of Pretoria and meet a fascinating and friendly rural community that has Nguni origins.

Did you know?

Ndebele women paint with chicken feathers − and their fingers − when decorating their homesteads.

Legendary artist Esther Mahlangu of Mpumalanga province put Ndebele culture on the world map in 1991 when she decorated a new BMW 525i in glorious technicolour 'homestead' style.

When it came 11th in the prestigious Art Car Collection, this eye-catching 'Ndebele-mobile' gave the German car manufacturer a true out-of-Africa promotion. Everyone was curious about those amazing patterns and colour combinations.

But if you want a taste of real Ndebele style in a down-to-earth situation, then head for Mapoch Ndebele Cultural Village, 40km north-west of Pretoria.

Mapoch wasn't built for tourists: it's a living Ndebele village famous for welcoming visitors in its midst. You can go for an hour-long walking tour and a longer cycling trip.

During your walkabout − guided by a local villager − you'll find out how the Ndebele culture came into being. You'll have a background brief on Ndebele architecture, wall-painting traditions, art and beadwork. You'll also get to hear about the Ndebeles' Zulu roots, their legendary war heroes, ways of the homestead and the many rituals that make up their lives.

The bicycle tour of the Mapoch Ndebele Cultural Village includes visits to a local pre-school, church, shebeen, a village home and a rather interesting 'sandbag house'.

You can stay overnight in the community-run lodge, which has eight twin rooms with basic but comfortable amenities. Even meals can be arranged, on a booking basis.

And if a little boy comes running up to you, urgently telling of some small family misfortune that requires your immediate assistance, it's not necessarily a cause for alarm. It may just be one of the endearingly hospitable customs: a ploy to lure you over for a welcoming party that could last well into the night.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Mapoch Ndebele Village
Chris Buda
Cell: +27 (0)76 140 9855
Cell: +27 (0)73 803 2184 (Bricks Buda)

How to get here

The village lies 40km north-west of Pretoria in the Klipgat area of North West province.

Tours to do

Book a walking or cycling group with the villagers.

Get around

To appreciate the cultural traditions of the Ndebele, you'll need a guide for your walking or cycling tour.

What will it cost

Prices vary according to the service offered and size of the group. A guide will cost approximately R85 per person or less.

Length of stay

Spend half a day or overnight in the community lodge.

Best buys

Ndebele art and crafts direct from the creators.