V&A Joy from Africa

WOWZULU – UHAMBO BY AFRICA!IGNITE

DISCOVER EMAZIZINI, INANDA AND LADYSMITH
The creators of this totem hail from three diverse areas in KwaZulu-Natal, each with its own unique character. 

eMazizini is a village in the Drakensberg, near the breath-taking Amphitheatre, one of the most spectacular geographical sites in South Africa – a cliff face that measures more than five kilometres in length and looms over the Royal Natal National Park. It’s from here that the Tugela Falls tumble – currently being reviewed as potentially the highest waterfall in the world! Hiking and trout fishing are favoured local activities. 

Inanda is a historic township just 30km from Durban, which played a large role in South Africa’s freedom struggle. Zulu culture is vibrant here, with dishes like steamed bread, amagwinya (vetkoek), imfino (wild spinach) and amadumbe (a sweet potato-like vegetable) served almost everywhere. Visit the WOWZULU Marketplace at Ohlange Institute, the place where Nelson Mandela first voted, then follow the Inanda Heritage Route, which starts in Phoenix Settlement, established in 1904 by Mahatma Gandhi. The craftspeople who worked on this totem live in a semi-rural community near the Inanda Dam (great for canoeing), on the hillside of Umzinyathi.   

Ladysmith lies 26km from Van Reenen’s Pass, on the foothills of the Drakensberg, along the Klip River. The town’s Siege Museum is considered to be one of the country’s best Anglo Boer War museums, and the surrounding area is filled with old battlefields. The Soofie Mosque and Gandhi statue at the Lord Vishnu Temple are worth a visit too, as is the Spioenkop Dam and Nature Reserve, which is ideal for boating and fishing.


GETTING THERE 
eMazizini lies midway between Johannesburg and Durban. From Joburg, once you get onto the R74, you’ll travel past the Sterkfontein Dam and down Oliviershoek Pass, with its wide, sweeping bends that are so loved by motorcyclists (but sometimes closed in winter due to snowfall). The Durban route turns off the N3 toward Winterton and past Bergville on the R74. Alternatively, take the Bazbus to Amphitheatre Backpackers.

Inanda is less than 30km from Durban, so catching a taxi is easy and costs less that R20, but it is recommended to visit with a WOWZULU guide rather than venturing out solo.

Ladysmith lies on the N11, which can be reached by taking the N3 from Durban or Johannesburg. Enjoy all the river passes while on the R103. Ladysmith has a small airport for private flights.


WHEN TO VISIT 
For a truly magical winter experience, eMazizini and the surrounding snow-capped mountains make for a picture-perfect escape into a log-fire cabin. But spring and autumn are more suitable for hiking.

Inanda buzzes throughout the year thanks to the mild winter climate that allows outdoor activities to continue. The shebeens always have fun entertainment on the go. 

Ladysmith has a lovely subtropical climate, making it great to visit all year round. The town usually hosts a community-driven Heritage Festival in September, with an exciting programme of music, dance and performance throughout the month. 

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A MASTERY OF MATERIALS
The baskets woven by women in the Drakensberg, in eMazizini, are made of isikhala and uhashu grass, harvested sustainably on the mountain slopes and further down along the rivers. “It’s a very difficult job,” says Beauty, “because we have to climb up into the mountains to cut the grass in the month of May only, and then because the snakes near the river are so very dangerous, we have to cut that grass in winter, in June and July only, and we have to cut everything for the whole year.” The baskets are embellished with recycled packaging plastic, woven in between the grass with needles that the weavers make themselves from nails.

The tapestries were embroidered by four women from Inanda, including Ngonephi Nojiyeza, who was taught the skill by her mother. “It’s part of our Zulu culture,” she says. “And now I get to teach others in my community.” Using a needle and thread, the women have created gorgeous images to capture their region’s beauty.

Beading is the largest craft in the province – a tradition that has been practiced in the Zulu kingdom for hundreds of years, having historically been a manner in which to send messages to loved ones through the design of pattern and use of specific colours. The panels for this totem were beaded with glass beads from the Czech Republic as there is no industry producing glass beads in South Africa.

THE STORY OF WOWZULU – UHAMBO
WOWZULU – Uhambo is filled with the skills passed down through generations of Zulu craft culture. Beading, weaving and embroidery show off the expertise in handcraft that is so revered in KwaZulu-Natal, elevating it in this piece of contemporary design. “We take cultural, traditional skills and put the ‘wow’ into them,” says Bongiwe, by way of explaining the WOWZULU name (Africa!Ignite’s programme mentioned above). Uhambo, meaning ‘the journey’ in isiZulu, speaks to the legacy of such craft.

Muted, earthy tones of dusty pink, creams and shimmering gold in the baskets and beading are juxtaposed by the vibrant images embroidered in the centre of this totem, depicting the WOWZULU craft-and-tourism-enterprise cycle. “You’ll see pictures of women weaving, families gathering and tourists visiting these hidden gems and special destinations,” Bongiwe explains. “And you’ll notice an airplane, linking these communities to international markets, because we do a lot of exports. And there’s an embroidered image of a physical WOWZULU Marketplace, as the gateway to a particular community.”  

“It shows off our area,” says Ngonephi, “and the beauty of two of my favourite places here: the mountains and Inanda Dam.”

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Africa_Ignite_Totem

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