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TThe Credo Mutwa Cultural Village is located in the heart of Soweto, south of Johannesburg. It consists of a remarkable collection of buildings and sculptures, which attempt to document African art, mythology, culture, folklore and architecture. The village is also a journey into the mind of one of South Africa’s most intriguing cultural figures.
Credo Mutwa is a controversial figure, to say the least. He is one of Africa’s foremost sangomas or traditional healers – although he describes himself as a ‘sanusi’, an archaic term for a role that includes prophetic divination as well as traditional medicine.
He is also a firm believer that aliens walk among us, coming and going as they please. Despite his colourful life he is highly regarded as an artist, cultural commentator and recently, for his work in conservation and hospice treatment.
In 1974 Credo Mutwa, in an attempt to enlighten Africans to their own greatness as well as to protect their cultural heritage, began to fill a site in Soweto with sculptures of images and stories from African folklore. He continued this work on and off for 12 years, training other artists to help him complete his vision.
However, in the political turmoil of the 1980s, Mutwa’s support for Black Consciousness ideas of positive African separatism – which called for black people to develop their own communities, without the input of white people – was misinterpreted by some as support for apartheid.
As a result, the site was vandalised several times, and Mutwa’s son was murdered in the political clashes around it. In 1986 he abandoned the project, leaving everything to fall into a tragic state of neglect and disrepair. In 2006 a restoration project was undertaken under the guidance of Musa Ntanzi, a student of Mutwa.
This restored Sowetan cultural village is situated beneath the Oppenheimer Tower, another famous landmark, which affords visitors a panoramic view of Soweto. The village consists of recreations of tribal homesteads, traditional burial practices and an eclectic array of sculptures: from Zulu chiefs and tokoloshes (African elves that sometimes help humans, but usually trick them into harm), to gods and aliens.
The site is surrounded by gardens containing plants like the wild olive, aloe, plumbago and the canary creeper, which are used in traditional African medicine. The sangomas who live close to the area often come to the gardens to gather materials for their practices.
Entrance to the Credo Mutwa Cultural Village is free. Even though it is irregularly upgraded, the site is a must on any tour of Soweto – especially for lovers of art, African culture and the esoteric.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Credo Mutwa Cultural Village
Tel: +27 (0)11 930-1813
How to get here
The Credo Mutwa Cultural Village lies next to the Oppenheimer Tower in the Jabavu section of Soweto.
Best time to visit
The village is open all year round, from 6am to 6pm.
The best and most fruitful way to see Soweto is on one of the many available guided tours.
Tours to do
Tours to the Apartheid Museum and the Hector Pieterson Museum, as part of a day-long Soweto experience.
What will it cost?
Entrance to the Credo Mutwa Cultural Village is free of charge.
Length of stay
The village can be comfortably explored in a morning.
What to pack
Sturdy walking shoes or boots, a hat and sunscreen
Where to stay
Any hotel in Johannesburg, or why not try something different and stay in a B&B in Soweto?
What to eat
Ask your guide to take you to a good Soweto restaurant, like Wandie’s Place.
Soweto has a rich and colourful history. There are loads of tours and museums to explore.
‘Nelson Mandela cloth’ at the stalls near the Hector Pieterson Museum.