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Arts & Crafts

Ribolla Arts and Crafts Route

Ribolla Open Africa Route is situated in the northernmost parts of South Africa in the Limpopo Province. It is situated along the route to the Kruger National Park, which is one of Africa's finest Parks. It is at the Punda Maria Gate at Kruger National Park that the Ribolla Route joins with the already existing Open Africa route called Hlanganani in the eastern part of the Limpopo Province. The route covers the four primary areas of Venda, Elim, Makhado (formerly Louis Trichardt), and Giyani.

Limpopo Province is renowned for its arts, crafts and design. There are acclaimed crafters and artists, traditional dancers, storytellers, gardeners, and singers to be seen on this route, in traditional Shangaan and Venda villages where visitors can stay overnight at rondavels or in luxury accommodation in nearby lodges. Here one can experience the culture and traditional way of life of the people of this region and the history of Louis Trichardt, also known as Makhado.

South Africa has always been prolific in its production of the arts and crafts. A great contribution of this output can be traced back to the Venda and Shangaan artists of the Limpopo Province, originating from the Venda, Gazankulu and Lebowa homelands. Located in the vicinity of the Elim, east of Makhado, a number of artists create artworks ranging from wood carvings to pottery, and thereby challenge and explore the potential of traditional materials such as basic driftwood and clay.

The group of artists hailing from this region have organised themselves to form the Ribolla Route. The artworks created by these artists often derive their inspiration from the mythical, which forms an important part of the local culture. Narratives, visions and dreams may also become manifested in carvings, and the abstract becomes embodied within what was once a raw and undefined piece of wood. The Ribolla art is greatly informed by the culture of these artists, their spiritual beliefs and legends as well as their rituals and traditions.

Despite these artists all originating and working from the same context and sharing a similar source of inspiration, a novel and signature style is still greatly present in the work of each of these individual artists. Distinguished artists which are residents of this region amongst others include representatives such as the eminent Jackson Hlungwane, Noria Mabasa, Thomas Kubayi, Phineas Masuvhelele and Sarah Munyai.

The importance of this group of artists' and their works, is not limited to the borders of Limpopo Province, but is also acknowledged beyond our National frontiers. Some of this area's artists' works have even been exhibited on an international platform, and have thus formed part of the broad spectrum in which South African art is perceived. Despite their international recognition, these artists have also managed to diverge from the common craft methods of largely mass produced works, and have furthermore attained positions in which they have been commissioned to create specific works, such as a drum for the opening ceremony of the locally hosted 2010 world cup. Many works, such as Mabasa's ?Flood?, also form part of well established art collections.

Although the majority of these artists never received traditional training, years of practice as well as the guidance of their forerunners has resulted in what we now regard as the unique group of artists. Their work has not only served them as a means of achieving economical survival, but also provides an honest expression of their cultural systems, and has thereby attained a new level of appreciation extending to the urban art world.

Ribolla Route participants:
Elim & Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge
Elim, where you start the Ribolla route, is a vibrant place with shops and markets, while walking around you learn more about the daily menu of the Venda, Tsonga and Pedi people.

Twananani Textiles (Mention on this line Contact number and GPS)
A group of 15 women practice the techniques of hand painting, block printing, dying, bead work and embroidery to create home decoration and fashion products. Their designs are based on traditional patterns. They run a cr?che for the children in the village

Thomas Kubayi
Thomas is a renowned artist using wood and cement to express daily life and social themes. You will find Thomas and his students at his workshop; from there he will take you to his studio where more sculptures are displayed. He is organizing creative workshops for school kids and teaching indigenous knowledge.

Justice Mugwena:
Artist since 2003
"I was born in 1981. I passed matric (with exemption) at the Lishavhana High School in 2000 and later attended the University of Technology (then the Vaal Triangle Technikon) partially completing a course in Mechanical Engineering. I started my career as an artist early, developing my talents from childhood although my career as an artist started in 2003 when I learnt woodcarving (sculpture) at a place called Lesheba Wilderness, where I spent three weeks sponsored by the De Beers Company. I came back home and worked as an artist, selling my work at Thomas Kubayi's studio."

"Thomas Kubayi inspired me in many ways. He taught me tricks and easier ways to sculpt. I sold several pieces of my art to people from different countries. My piece called 'Armchair' was sold to the University of Limpopo. With my sculpture 'Mermaid' (height 3.5m) I entered the Sasol New Signatures Competition in 2005. I plan to establish my own studio in Limpopo for my artwork to be displayed in. I enjoy being an artist and promise to stay an artist".

Lucky Makamu
Inspired by religious and mythical theme's Lucky makes sculptures with metal elements and benches and tables decorated in the same style as his sculptures. He is teaching his daughter the skills of woodcarving and when you visit him you will enjoy his stories.

David Murathi
David started woodcarving when he was still at school, and woodcarving is now his business. You will find a wide range of small and big sculptures, wooden bath room accessories such as hooks, towel racks, mirrors in his well organized studio.

Noria Mbasa
Noria who has received wide international recognition is the only female wood sculptor, but also works with clay. She is highly inspired by her dreams and tradition. The Art gallery exhibits her wooden and clay sculptures, traditional and modern pots and drums.

Ribolla Cultural walking trail
A Ribolla tour guide can accompany you on a walk to the top of the Ribolla Mountain. This Cultural walking trail is a day walk that leads you along rural villages and forestry's to the top of Ribolla, a sacred place used by the Tsonga people for initiation rituals.

Florence Matchume (bead work, village walk)

Hlamarisa Vuma (beadwork)

Elvis (traditional healer)

Handcrafted paper (papermaking)

Pfananani weaving
This group is weaving carpets and wall hangers from hand dyed wool in distinctive tapestry techniques. You can see the women working on the big looms and they run a small shop where you can buy their products.

Madi a Thavha Design & Madi a Thavha Farm Lodge

Mukhondeni Pottery
About 20 women produce traditional and contemporary Venda pots, fire places, bowls and objects for decoration. Especially their huge vessels are impressive. Their pottery is decorated with traditional geometric patterns and symbols like the fish.

Mukhondeni Pottery village
Sarah Munyani is one of the oldest Venda potters. She passes her skills to the other members of the Mukundeni Pottery Village co-operative. All pots are displayed in the 'pottery street' of the village, with huts traditionally decorated with soil and cow dunk. On request the women demonstrate how they make the pots.

Mashamba Thondeni Pottery
A small pottery producing high quality traditional Venda pots. All pots are displayed around a traditional homestead.

Tshakuma market
Local market along the R 524, where women sell fruit and vegetables from the farms in the Levubu valley.