Traditionally, the Xhosa are famous for their brightly coloured clothing and textiles, long-stemmed pipes, beadwork and music. Visit Mgwali village and market and learn how Xhosa arts and crafts are linked to their cultural practices, while enjoying authentic Xhosa hospitality.

Did you know?

Xhosa dance music is often polyphonic, with two or more voice parts, beginning  at different points in the cycle and often overlapping extensively.

Mgwali Village in the Eastern Cape is a typical Xhosa cultural village. Visitors are invited to experience various aspects of Xhosa culture, including traditional food, social rituals and the role of Xhosa art and craft in shaping identity.

When you arrive, your tour guide will walk you through the village and introduce you to its residents. You will be invited into people's homes, where you can participate in daily rituals, such as preparing a meal or seeing how traditional Xhosa beer is made, before sharing it with the residents. You will also visit a traditional healer or ‘sangoma', and meet the village pipe makers.

Xhosa pipes are highly sought after. Pipe-makers use locally grown wood and, when people are gathered in a group, it is customary to pass a pipe around for everyone to smoke. The significance of pipes in Xhosa society can be illustrated by the metaphor used when someone dies − Wayibeka Inqawa − 'He has laid down his pipe'.

The market place is at the heart of the village. Here, you can watch local crafters practising skills that have been passed down through generations. Along with their pipes, the Xhosa are famous for other South African arts and crafts, like their brightly coloured clothing and textiles, beadwork and music.

During the course of your visit, you will be able to enjoy some traditional songs and dancing. Look out for ‘ithumbu', a bead necklace worn by dancers or ‘iqoqo', a decorative, beaded band worn around the lower back when dancing.

You will also see first-hand how beading and weaving are used in elaborate outfits in bright colours worn by Xhosa women. These are typically adorned with braiding and beads over a skirt and, along with a colourful headdress, show the stages of a woman's life.

Before your tour is over, you are welcome to join the bustle of villagers selling and swapping their goods at the market. You can buy local craft work and meet the artists and craftsmen. Look out for objects made from wood and natural clays, such as cooking pots, traditional Xhosa village mats and baskets made from reeds and grass.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Office
Tel: +27 (0)43 701 9600

Tel: +27 (0)43 726 3748
Mobile: +27 (0)82 920 8040

Mgwali Village
Ncamiso Kotobe/Connie Kakana
Tel: +27 (0)43 683 2721

How to get here

Mgwali is situated 25km east of Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape, near the Amatola Mountains. Tours start from either King Williams Town, or East London.

Around the area

Explore the Amatola Mountains near Stutterheim, home to some of the most extensive tracts of indigenous forest in South Africa.

What will it cost

A day tour including transport and food will cost between R600 and R700.

Where to stay

Choose a lovely Eco lodge, Shire Eco Lodge, on the edge of the indigenous forest, or backpacker-like accommodation in the village or in a B&B in Stutterheim.

What to eat

Try traditional food like bread and mngqusho, a favorite of the Xhosa people, made of samp and cowpeas cooked slowly over the fire.

Related articles