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TThe Lemba people living in Venda, in the Limpopo province, are said to originate from one of the ten tribes of Israel, who crossed into Africa in about 650 BC. They are proud of their roots and gather at least once a year to celebrate their customs. 

 

The far-northern reaches of Limpopo province hold mysteries and legends like the Rain Queen, the Sacred Lake. This province is also home to the Lemba, who regard themselves as descendents of one of the ten tribes of Israel. 

 

The Lemba emblem is the Star of David, with an elephant at its centre. The elephant signifies the clan's membership to the Venda nation, and is a symbol of might, peace and intellect. 

 

Should you meet John Hadji, a senior member of the clan out at East Lynne Farm near Elim, he will shed more light on the history of the Lemba people. 

 

The Lemba in Limpopo believe they were separated from the other Jewish tribes about 2 700 years ago. 

'Our forefathers left Israel during a time when Jews were persecuted by Nebuchadnezzar, in 650BC. They came down through Yemen, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique, before finding this place,' says John. 

 

Some of the Jewish traditions still maintained by the Lemba include male circumcision, eating kosher meat and burying their dead with their heads pointing towards Judea. Each year, they gather a week before the regular Jewish New Year at a farm called Sweetwaters, called together by the Lemba Cultural Association in a bid to maintain their culture and recall their roots. 

 

The area is also home to the famous Ribolla Art Route, which showcases the unique artworks of the area. Some of the artists featured on the route include Jackson Hlungwane, Sarah Munyai and Phineas Masuvhelele. The route also features dancers, storytellers and singers so that visitors can experience Venda and Tsonga culture. 

 

Travel tips & planning info 

 

Who to contact 

Guide: Daniel Khosa 

Tel: +27 (0)72 235 4543 

Email: khosad@yahoo.com 

 

Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge 

Tel: +27 (0)12 556 3406 

Email: clare@shiluvari.com 

 

How to get there 

Head for Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge outside Elim near the Limpopo town of Makhado - the guide takes you out from there. 

 

Things to do  

 

Ask your guide to take you on a tour of the Ribolla Art Route in the area - the art is world-class. 

 

What to pack  

Sunscreen, hat, water and comfortable walking shoes. 

 

Where to stay 

Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge outside Elim. 

 

Related links 

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