Exquisitely moulded clay pots, fantastic wooden carvings, prints, etchings and paintings that explore and breathe new life into ancient traditions − Venda art is as rich and colourful as the land and culture that inspires it.

Did you know?

Noria Mabasa's 2.8m tall carving The Flood is on permanent display at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

Travelling through the northern part of Limpopo is different to travelling anywhere else in South Africa. It's not just the lush and distinctive landscape that sets Venda apart, it's the area's unique traditions and culture, which find ready expression in Venda art.

Venda art encompasses a range of genres and media, with artists producing paintings, etchings, sculpture, woodcarving, beadwork, pottery and textiles. Much of the art in this province draws on the culture of the Venda people. This culture is steeped in myth and legend, with stories, dances and rituals continuously breathing life into old traditions.

Significantly, these traditions are not just about the past; they also speak to the present. Artists in Venda play an important role in exploring the interactions and creative potential of Venda culture in the context of modern-day South Africa.

One of the best ways to learn about Venda art is to visit the area and interact with some of the artists. While many of them are amongst the most respected in the country, you will find them working at home studios, or at art centres, ready to talk to you and share their work.

The best-known Venda art route is the Ribolla Art Route, but bear in mind that it simply presents a range of options that you can combine to explore the area's artistic treasures. Details change, artists move away and the only guarantee you have is that you will be surprised at what you discover on your travels through Makhado, Elim, Giyani, Thohoyandou and the surrounds.

Artists you may meet while travelling in Venda include Noria Mabasa, who works in the riverside village of Tshino, Thomas Kubayi, from Tshivhuyuni village, and Justice Mugwena, who sells his work at Thomas Kubayi's studio.

At the Thohoyandou Art and Culture Centre, you may meet Avahashoni Mainganye and his students. About an hour out of the city, you can also visit famous potters Rebecca Mathibe, in the village of Mufulwi, or Grace Nekhavhani, who lives in Vhurivhuri.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Ribolla Art Route Manager
Daniel Khosa
Tel: +27 (0)72 235 4543
Email: khosahd@yahoo.com

Vhurivhuri Camp
Christopher Nethonzhe
Tel: +27 (0)76 302 9383

How to get here

The Ribolla Art Route is best accessed from Elim, not far from the town of Makhado in the northern Limpopo province.

Get around

While you can drive yourself through Venda, to make the most of your time there it is advisable to hire a guide who knows the area, its customs and the artists working in it.

What will it cost

Hiring a guide for the day costs between R400 and R600.

Where to stay

There is a great community-run campsite in the village of Vhurivhuri that is a good, budget-friendly base from which to explore the area.

What to eat

Sample some traditional Venda dishes, including those made from Mopani worms and flying ants, along with the area's plentiful fruit and vegetables.

Best buys

Venda is best known for its wood carvings, drums and pots.

Related articles