In the heart of traditional Venda territory, snuggled at the foot of the Luaname Mountains, just above the village of Mukumbani, lies African Ivory Route’s Fundudzi Cultural Camp. Natural forests, lakes, rivers and waterfalls boast with such fertility that there is little wonder why modern tea plantations and forestry flourish between the well populated rural villages.
You will need a 4WD vehicle to reach the base of the camp with ease and you will need to walk around with your eyes closed to leave without any of the world-renowned traditional Venda art and crafts.
Potholes, waterfalls and holy forests are but some of the natural tourist attractions in the surrounding area, but perhaps the best known of sacred places in Venda is the mysterious Lake Fundudzi.
The Venda people have for generations protected South Africa’s Lake Fundudzi, a sacred royal burial ground believed to be the home of an albino python and a mermaid-like creature.
There are numerous legends surrounding the lake. One such legend believes that lake is is the home of the God of Fertility, the python, and that in turn, one must greet the lake through your legs, never looking directly at the lake before doing so.
Close by Lake Fundudzi in the mountain is the Holy Forest, where a sacred white lion haunts the forest to protect the graves of the many local chiefs.
Known by some as the python dance, the Domba dance is an essential ritual in the initiation rites for young Venda females. The dance imitates the movement of a huge snake as the young initiates move around the fire singing ancient songs.
The Domba Dance can be pre-arranged for evening entertainment at Fundudzi.
Besides my inability to leave without at least eight of the infamous ceramic pots and a dozen sets of beadwork, it was the importance of this Land of Legend’s beliefs and stories about the supernatural that proved the most difficult not to acquire for myself.
I left Fundudzi Cultural Camp with a curiosity for a culture beyond my own, a desire not to lose the sacred that all human societies once held and a reconsideration for the role of the magical.
You see, if we had to be entirely honest, rekindling new relationships with each other and the natural world might very well require several lakes full of magic.
Words and pictures © Daréll Lourens
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