The Relationship Between South African Cultures & Its Landscapes

Shangaan Cultural Village Elder

SA culture tours and safari excursions sit squarely on many a bucket list for a good reason. This land is
home to so many mysteries and experiences that its rich history is still unknown to much of the planet.

From the oldest stories about South Africa through to modern accounts, the ancient land of our country
is something magical and memorable to experience. Iconic high plateaus, sprawling grasslands, and
rolling hills paint a majestic and iconic landscape, the very features of which have not only supported
one of the planet’s most diverse and vibrant collections of animal, bird, and plant life, but has given
form and a unique sense of value to each of the eleven official cultures still thriving in South Africa.

Children Of The Land

South African languages, our ways of life, and our understanding of the world around us are so closely
tied to the land itself as to have shaped nearly all aspects of South African life. Our very ways of
speaking were born out of a need to navigate and survive our terrain; a terrain that has had as much to
do with shaping the various African cultures present in our country, as causing an adaptation of the
European ones which would grow into a smaller part of this whole.

Heritage, in South Africa, can be a tough thing to define, despite the importance that all cultures in the
country place in their individual identities. Across all the value-systems in South Africa, each of which
represents a wholly different perspective set against a different cultural background; all of them have
one major thing in common; a need to describe, manipulate, fashion, and live with the often-challenging
landscapes we call home.

Beauty Found In An Unforgiving Climate

There is a hidden well of life behind the dryness; a majestic beauty, patience, and pride behind the
thorny Wag `n Bietjie bushes; something of a lullaby behind the haunting nightly calls of jackal, hyena,
and wild dogs of the bushveld. Our symbiotic relationship with one of the planet’s hardiest terrains
speaks volumes about the durability, tenacity, and adaptability of all South African cultures, something
that has surely given each one the grit needed to make it through our tumultuous history in the way
that we have.

The melting pot of different South African cultures didn’t only learn to live and survive here; we were all
born from an intimate understanding of its dangers, mysteries, and bounties. The land has taught us
about sustainability, necessity, survival, and the unrelenting power and beauty of nature.

We have formed partnerships with our wildlife to keep them protected, to learn from them, draw
bounties from them, and to help them flourish from one generation to the next.

South Africans Are The Land We Live In

As a source of much mystery and adventure to the global world, the South African landscape can never
be removed from the cultures it has nurtured. A landscape steeped in rich history, stories of the natural world, the discovery of minerals that would
change its course through history, and a stage for countless conflicts that would lay the foundation for a
unified South Africa. A culture that, through the commonplace love of our land could bind eleven major
and often conflicting worldviews into a harmonious cultural symphony.

Unsurprisingly, then, one of the best ways for travellers to get an inclusive experience of the African
landscape, is to immerse itself into its many supported cultures. Getting a first-hand experience of a
community’s close relationship to the land demonstrates a symbiosis that, through centuries of adapting
and problem solving, has become a two-way path forged through the bushveld.

While South Africa provides what communities need for survival, we too have learned to take care of its
bounties to ensure that it can keep giving and thriving.

For travellers, being a part of this sustainable relationship draws out the most beautiful aspects of the
land, shows it off as the dynamic, life-supporting wonder that it is, which is why any SA culture tour
should be a part of a safari itinerary. The wildlife and landscape here doesn’t simply exist independently
from people, but forms part of an intelligent ecosystem.

The Shangaan Cultural Village: An Icon Of History & Sustainability

The Shangaan Cultural Village in Hazyview, just outside the Kruger National Park, is the perfect example
of this.

The Shangaan, by their very history, collates people from a mixture of the Nguni language groups,
including Swazi, Zulu, and Xhosa, as well as Tsonga speaking groups such as the Ronga, Ndzawu, Shona,
and Chopi tribes. This alone demonstrates the Shangaan Cultural Village as a completely multicultural
experience with rich and diverse worldviews working together.

The first of the Shangaan were believed to be traders in the 18th
century, who followed rivers inland to find communities where cloth, beads, copper, salt, and ivory could be traded.
This history alone speaks of a group of people who (in just one example of South African culture’s
dependence on the land) would source raw materials from plants, the earth, and animals, then use the
sprawling African landscape to navigate its terrain with certainty.

The cultures that would eventually become the Shangaan-Tsonga eventually settled in fertile plains,
adopting subsistence fishing and small-scale livestock farming. These cultures spread and split into
several independent chiefdoms more typical of central African societies; adapting in a way that
improved survival in the harsh African landscape

Living With The Land

Living With The Land Shangaan Cultural Village

These societies, like many early cultures in South Africa, laid out settlements in circular living areas
surrounded by wooden walls. This not only helped to protect its people from outside dangers, but
ensures the protection of territories, livestock, trading goods, and farms; a formation not just found in
history books, but also in pockets of civilisation across the country.

A Cultural Rooted In The Sky, Soil, & Rivers

Shangaan-Tsonga culture, despite having evolved substantially over the years, has its roots in ancestry,
where spirits of ancestors are believed to reside in sacred places throughout the African terrain.
With ancestral spirits being a crucial part of Shangaan culture, these sacred burial grounds are revered
and celebrated, pushing a more powerful bond to the land.

Having a society that includes both the living and the dead ensures that these sacred spaces are
preserved and used as they have been for centuries, for ritual ceremonies, sacrifices, and prayers; both
in times of celebration and when facing a crisis.

There is so much to learn about South African culture through its steeped and story laden landscapes,
through practices and beliefs that still endure today, through the long-standing relationships between
people, the land, and the living creatures that call it home.

Take It All In: Visit Timbavati Safari Lodge

Why not get an authentic South African experience, learn about the land from the societies that have
mastered it?
Speak to Timbavati Safari Lodge today to find out more about staying with us and embarking on an
unforgettable SA culture tour.