Elim and surroundings
This tour takes visitors to Elim and surrounding villages, the home to various artists and crafters. We advise to make use of the services of a local tour guide, since many places are not that easy to find and the guide provides easy access to artists' workshops and homesteads in the villages. A tour guide can be booked at Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge.
The tour starts at Elim market to get a feel of the local atmosphere: women selling fruit and vegetables, hair dressers, the local shebeen and the taxi bus station.
The next stop is at Twananani Textiles, a group of 12 women who are inspired by traditional Tsonga patterns and symbols. The techniques of hand painting, block printing, dying, bead work and embroidery are used to create a wide range of home decoration and fashion products. They also run a crèche, and guests will be invited to sing with the children.
The drive continues to Tshivhuyuni, the village where Thomas Kubayi runs his woodcarving workshop and music studio: Vutsila Art Centre. This is a nice spot for a break, to enjoy the beautiful landscape and a pick-nick lunch.
Afterwards, travellers follow the road to Mukondeni Pottery Village; here, famous Venda pots are showcased along the road. A group of 15 women, established by Sarah Munyai, produce traditional and contemporary Venda pots, fire places, bowls and clay beads. They dig clay from the river in their village and believe that river clay is the strongest ingredient for making the pots. Their pottery is decorated with geometric patterns and various symbols like the fish, which is a symbol for their region. For decoration they use graphite and ochre, which they find in the Luonde Mountains.
Further along the road one finds the Mukondeni Pottery factory. It is here where women show how they make the pots and how the traditional firing process works. In and around the factory a large collection of pots and other clay objects are showcased and sold to visitors.
This is the main route of the tour, but it can be expanded by additional loops, places and activities, depending on the interest of the visitor.
Additional loop to Tshikota and the Indian area in Louis Trichardt before driving to Elim, starting point of the tour. Tshikota, the township of Louis Trichardt gives an impression of daily life, housing, shops, shebeens, and schools. Also the Indian area with its vibrant businesses and shops, mosque and urban areas is worthwhile to visit.
Additional loop to Rivierplaats: a drive through rural villages situated in a beautiful mountainous landscape. It is possible to visit the homestead of Frank Kubayi, who makes traditional food and wedding baskets, woven from wood. The women around Frank’s homestead make mats from grass, using recycled materials from snack bags. The drive back to Elim passes Lemana, an old missionary post of historical significance.
Additional loop to Chavani: the home village of Florence Matchume, the grand mother of one of our tour guides Musa Matchume. Although she doesn't live there anymore, it's a nice place to have a pick nick lunch under the trees of her home stead. In the village you can visit the local school.
Places of interest
A local primary and / or secondary school
The small museum at Elim hospital, showing the history of the Elim missionary and hospital
The library at Mukondeni
Hlanganani Centre for the elderly people, the centre is very much involved with supporting HIV/Aids orphans
Rivoni Centre for the blinds
At Mukondeni Pottery Village and at Mukondeni Pottery factory visitors can make their own clay pot, a nice activity for parents and kids.
At Vutsila Art Centre visitors can play traditional music instruments with the students of Thomas Kubayi’s woodcarving workshop.
Distance: 120 kilometers
Tour guide: advisable
Level of adventure: moderate
Car: normal car, only for the Rivierplaats loop a car with high wheel clearance is needed