Botshabelo Mission Station
The Botshabelo Mission Station, meaning ‘place of refuge’near Middelburg in Mpumalanga, was established by the Reverend Alexander Merensky from the Berlin Mission Society during the 1860’s as a haven for Christians and converted Bapedi refugees.
Now a museum, the site includes Fort Merensky (a national monument) and the Parsonage amongst other restored buildings. The complex also incorporates an Ndebele village, whose residents are descendants of the original Bapedi who sought shelter here.
The Botshabelo Historical Village is an open-air museum that preserves the customs and the various art forms traditionally practised by the Ndebele, particularly their women, including beadwork, murals and the embroidering of blankets.
Following a centuries-old custom, the women here still wear traditional garments comprising chunky beaded ankle and neck bracelets, decorative leather aprons and brass neck and leg rings together with boldly striped blankets. Their appearance is as striking and eye-catching as their works of art.
The women artists here are highly skilled in the art of mural making, decorating the exterior of their buildings with bold, brightly coloured geometric designs, drawing on a heritage of intuitive creativity that is passed down from mother to daughter.
This village has produced some of South Africa’s foremost traditional artists like Esther Mahlangu, who broke with artistic tradition by transferring traditional Ndebele designs onto canvas. Her work is represented in prestigious local and international collections.
Come to Botshabelo for a privileged glimpse into the rich artistic heritage of the Ndebele nation.