Traditional African architecture
Did you know?
British Airways featured a traditional Ndebele-inspired design by Martha Masanabo, on the tail fin of some of their planes.
Visitors to South Africa can view traditional African architecture in roadside villages as you drive around the country, but you have to know what you're looking for as each tribe has its own distinctive style.
Zululand is located along the eastern coast of South Africa. Here you will find the traditional "beehive" houses of this tribe - layers of grass covering a wooden framework. These huts are laid out in a circle around a central cattle kraal, a similar layout to the Xhosa huts in the south-east of the country, although their huts tend to be made of painted mud.
In the 1800s, Shaka Zulu sent a warrior, Soshangana, to conquer the Tsonga people to the north. Instead, the warrior was very taken with these peace-loving people and their round, patterned huts with thatched roofs, so he made his home with them, and they took his name to become known as the Shangaan.
The Venda people live to the South of the Limpopo. Their houses are traditionally circular, surrounded by deep verandahs. These are similar to those built by the Tswana, Pedi and Tsonga, but their plastered ceilings are painted on the inside with concentric patterns known as "the eye of the lion".
Visit Sotho villages in the southern Highveld and in Lesotho - although these days you'd be hard-pressed to find the traditional snout-like entrance to the dwellings.
And any round-up of South African tribal architecture would be incomplete without a visit to an Ndebele village - north-east of Pretoria - with their unique polychromatic wall art.
If you don't have the time to visit all the different regions, at the Lesedi cultural village, just north of Johannesburg, you can take a tour of representations of Ndebele, Zulu, Basotho, Xhosa and Pedi villages.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Shangana Cultural Village - Mpumalanga
Tel: +27 (0) 13 737 5805
Shakaland - KwaZulu-Natal
Tel: +27 (0) 35 460 0912
Lesedi Cultural Village - Gauteng
Tel: +27 (0) 87 940 9933