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EExquisitely 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.
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, woodcarvings, 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 among the most respected in the country, you will find them working at home studios or art centres, ready to talk to you and share their work.
The best-known Venda art route is the Ribola 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.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)21 683 9639
How to get here
The Ribola Art Route is best accessed from Elim, not far from the town of Makhado in the northern Limpopo province.
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.
Things to do
Trips to Mapungubwe National Park, Sacred Lake Fundudzi, Baobab Reserve and many other natural and cultural destinations.
Tours to do
The artists' route, village tours, day trips to sacred places, evenings of Venda song and dance.
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. Send an email to Open Africa if you’re interested in staying here.
Length of stay
Three to 4 days doing day trips will give you a good insight into Venda culture.
What to pack
Pack comfortable clothes and shoes for exploring this magical region.
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.
Venda is best known for its wood carvings, drums and pots.