I love Limpopo and I also love African craft art. So when I went to Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge — a lodge outside Louis Trichardt in far northern Limpopo that promotes the work of Venda and Tsonga artists — I was in heaven.
Madi a Thavha started 15 years ago when Dutch immigrants Marcelle Bosch and Aart van Soest decided they wanted to open a lodge in northern Limpopo. There was very little tourism development in this area and Marcelle and Aart had a particular interest in this region’s artists and artisans — sculptors, potters, beaders, textile-makers, etc. — as the Venda and Tsonga cultures have very strong and unique artistic traditions. (Read more about the art from this region in my 2016 post about the Ribola Art Route.)
Marcelle and Aart bought an old farm, about 10 kilometers west of the town of Louis Trichardt, and set about turning it into a lodge. They named the lodge Madi a Thavha, which means “water from the mountain” in Venda, because the farm’s water comes from natural springs that flow down the mountain.
Today, this lodge is basically paradise.
I don’t think my photos properly convey the sense of tranquillity and peace I felt while I was at Madi a Thavha. The design and decor of the lodge harmonizes so well with its natural surroundings. It’s classy and luxurious and unpretentious and understated, all at once, and while I was there I felt blissfully far away from all my real-world stresses and worries.
Madi a Thavha serves hearty, delicious food (most of the room rates include full board) and has pleasant common areas and a great shop selling well-priced local art. I feel like I’m gushing on and on but you get the idea. It’s wonderful.
Tours at Madi a Thavha
You could easily sit around Madi a Thavha all day, just reading and strolling around and listening to the birds chirp. But if you’re interested in art then you need to spend at least a day or two with one of Madi a Thava’s in-house guides, driving around and visiting the artists and other cultural attractions in the area. I spent one day exploring with Marcelle and the next day with lodge manager and guide Musa Matchume. I was pleasantly exhausted at the end of each day, having learned so many fascinating things about this unique corner of South Arica.
Madi a Thavha also offers bird-watching tours, hiking tours, school tours, market tours — tours of basically every aspect of life in northern Limpopo.
Madi a Thavha in Joburg
Although it’s an amazing experience to visit Limpopo’s artists in their own homes and communities, the artists struggle to make a living so far from the big city. So last year, Marcelle and Aart worked with their Limpopo artist partners to open a shop at Victoria Yards in downtown Joburg.
The Joburg shop stocks art from most of the artists who work with Madi a Thavha, and also hosts the Limpopo artists for artist-in-residency programs.
I visited the Joburg shop for the first time this week and — no surprise — it’s stunning. I loved browsing around, checking out the works of artists I met while I was in Limpopo and chatting with Percy Mamba, the lively shop manager.
So here are my recommendations:
- Go stay at Madi a Thavha. It’s about a five-hour drive from Joburg and room rates start at around R1000 ($65) for a single room with full board. Trust me, it’s worth it.
- If you can’t make it to Limpopo, go check out the Limpopo art in the Madi a Thavha shop at Victoria Yards. You’re unlikely to leave empty-handed.
My stay at Madi a Thavha was complimentary. Opinions expressed are mine.