Shangana Cultural Village
The traditional villages of Shangana are found just outside Hazyview, on the R535 towards Graskop, and are a little gem well worthwhile visiting. The villages are home to families who invite guests to experience their culture and way of life. Tours are led by trained guides, and begin with a short walk along a winding path through the bush.
After gaining permission, guests enter a village where they are greeted by the resident Chief, in traditional dress complete with an impala skin, which he wears every day unless attending an evening festival or meeting with the village elders, in which case the impala is swapped for a leopard skin.
After the guide has explained the history, customs and traditions, guests have the opportunity to meet the Chief's family, and ask questions. The Chief has many interesting stories, including how he fought in a battle and was wounded by a spear - and he has the scar on his arm to prove it!
The largest of the huts in the village belongs to the Chief, and guests learn how the Chief's hut always faces the entrance to the village so that he can watch for enemies entering, and how the Chief's first wife always lives in the hut immediately to his right.
All young girls in the village from the age of 5 live together in the same hut until they get married at 21. The same applies to all young boys, although they are not allowed to marry until 25. The boys' hut is the nearest one to the village entrance so that they can protect their family. The Chief's mother, who died in 1976, wanted to be buried in her hut, and her grave is symbolised by the skull of a dead animal over the door.
The Ceremonial Tree
In the centre of the village is a sacred tree, where the Chief and his family will pray to their ancestors to ask for advice and help.Sacred trees play an important part in village life, and are treated with respect and reverie. Praying for advice takes the form of a ceremony, at which all family members will attend. During these ceremonies, offerings of snuff, African root beer and even animal sacrificial blood are poured onto the base of the tree. The white, red and black cloths tied around the tree symbolise life, blood and death or mourning.
Visiting the Sangoma
The mystical kraal of the sangoma, or traditional healer, is next to the village, and the next stop on the village tour. Guests sit around in a circle, and the sangoma shares traditional secrets of how they use bones of different animals to diagnose illness and other problems, and shows the many roots and herbs used as cures and medicines.
On the way out is the Marula Market, the leading market in the region for local craft and curios. All the prices are at local 'Shangaan' rates, so it is possible to pick up a real bargain!
Daytime tours are available to anyone who is passing by, and take about one hour. However, the best way to experience the real village life is to book onto a midday tour or evening festival. The midday tour follows the same format as the daytime tours, but a full traditional lunch is served in the village with the Chief and his family - an intimate and unforgettable experience.
The menu includes honey-glazed sweet potatoes, freshly baked maize bread, beef potmast, and wild spinach with peanuts.
The Evening Festival
The flame-lit evening festival tells the story of the Shangaan nation with a cast of choristers, actors and dancers.
Colourful and fast-moving, this is a fabulous experience, and a feast is served at the interval, including starters of mopani worms, venison and crocodile. Main courses are similar to lunch, and dessert is skewers of fresh chilled fruit.
Travel Butlers can assist with the booking of the midday and evening festivals, but for the general daytime tours, you can just turn up whenever.