The Dancing Fish gallery in the Soutpansberg offers a finely executed, informative display on the cultures of South Africa’s northern Limpopo province. Based at the Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge just outside Makhado, the gallery provides an insightful overview of the art and crafts – past and present – of the Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho people.

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Madi a Thavha means ‘water from the mountains’, a name suggested by the lodge’s first staff members in reference to the clean spring water that runs down the nearby hills.

The Dancing Fish gallery at the Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge is a welcome addition to the area around Makhado (formerly Louis Trichardt) in South Africa’s Limpopo province. More a small, modern museum than a commercial gallery, the building houses a permanent exhibition on the culture of the Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho people.

The gallery has quickly established itself as an authoritative source on the artistic heritage of the province's primary cultural groups. Visitors can see and read about how the area's arts and crafts have developed through traditional, transitional and contemporary phases.

Together with renowned cultural anthropologist Petra Terblanche, the Dutch owner of the lodge, Marcelle Bosch, has ensured that the exhibit is both comprehensive and thoroughly researched.

In addition to the main exhibition, the gallery also offers some informative displays on traditional healing, musical instruments from the area, food, and traditional storytelling. The gallery’s resource centre makes available background information, research documentation, music and documentaries to those who want to learn more.

Madi a Thavha also has a shop that sells a range of items made by local artists and crafters, including original carvings, home décor products, jewellery and small gifts. The lodge’s own impressive collection of contemporary Southern African artworks features throughout its rooms.

As Madi a Thavha’s host, Bosch is intimately familiar with the artists and crafters currently working in the area. Packages or custom tours, guided by Bosch or one of the excellent local guides she works with, can be arranged. During these tours, you can visit many of the artists whose work features in the gallery.

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