Shangana Cultural Village: An Authentic African Experience

Located midway between the awe-inspiring Blyde River Canyon and the southern tip of the Kruger National Park, the picturesque Shangana Cultural Village offers guests the opportunity of sharing in the day-to-day lives of the Shangaan people. Set in the shade of ancient trees in a reserve area of grassland and forest, Shangana Cultural Village was created by members of the local Shangaan tribe as a means of preserving their rich heritage, and serves as a superb example of the great cultural diversity present in South Africa.

The center of Shangana Cultural Village is dominated by the Marula Market, a hive of activity where local craftspeople make and sell their traditional crafts. Many of the artists work at their homes in the surrounding villages and then bring their completed items through to the Marula Market to be sold. Visitors will find a wide range of expertly crafted items to buy and take home. This has assisted local artists and crafters to earn a living for the benefit of themselves and their families. The wide circle of huts allows a stunning view of the Kruger Park and serves as the departure point for various tours, led by trained tour guides.

Tour options include daytime tours to nearby villages with lunch included and the spectacular Evening Festival in the Chief’s Kraal – a three hour experience that is unforgettable. As the sun dips behind the mountains and shadows gather in the valley, guests are taken by their guide through the bush, heading toward the Kraal of Chief Soshangana. Slowly the beating of the drums grows louder until guests are met by warriors who escort them through a passage of impressive stone towers with flaming torches lighting their way. In the middle of the circle of royal huts and under the boughs of age-old trees, Chief Soshangana and his family host the evening. In what has been described as a spectacular and moving experience, choirs, actors and dancers tell the story of the Shangaan people. While the show is in progress, traditional beer and local delicacies, such as fire-grilled venison, crocodile baked in groundnut sauce and mopani worms pan fried in butter, are passed around for all to enjoy. The group is then divided into smaller groups to share a traditional feast in the individual houses of the chief’s wives. The feast generally includes beef stew, honey-glazed sweet potatoes, wild spinach with crushed peanuts, traditional mieliepap, samp with sugar beans, maize bread and salad, with fresh chilled fruit on skewers completing the meal. Following the feast, the show continues with the more recent history of the Shangaans, at the conclusion of which guests are led back to the starting point of the tour.

One hour tours include a trip to a local village where the guide explains the different aspects of Shangaan day-to-day life. Visitors will gain fascinating insight into the tribe’s history, customs, practice of polygamy, initiation ceremonies, the clothing and weaponry of warriors, as well as the construction of homes, preparation of food and traditional arts and crafts. The resident Sangoma (traditional healer) will throw the bones on request and offer advice based on how they fall.

Certainly, a visit to Shangana Cultural Village and the hospitality of the friendly Shangaan people provides a truly enjoyable authentic African experience.