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SHILUVARI LAKESIDE LODGE : Culture in South Africa


visiting Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge

Shiluvari has been built on strong values including racial reconciliation

Shilvuvari Lakeside Lodge was one of the first four businesses in South Africa to be awarded the Fair Trade in Tourism trademark, reflecting their commitment to their staff, the local economy, culture and the environment.

Shiluvari Lodge - Shiluvari Lodge, Elim, Limpopo, South Africa [2010 © greatguides.org]
Shiluvari has been built on strong values including racial reconciliation

Shilvuvari Lakeside Lodge was one of the first four businesses in South Africa to be awarded the Fair Trade in Tourism trademark, reflecting their commitment to their staff, the local economy, culture and the environment. In particular, the owners initiated the Ribolla Arts Route, promoting carvers, potters, painters and sculptors around Elim in the Venda region, and actively support Fair Trade in Tourism in South Africa.

Time at Shiluvari kindled our faith in ethical tourism and in the collaborative stewardship of South Africa’s cultural heritage. What is special about the team at Shiluvari is a long history of bridge-building and their persistent investment in human development. A genuine partnership exists in management and planning, resulting in a high quality experience for all. Shiluvari has won a string of awards for fair and sustainable tourism, as well as for excellent food.

Shiluvari Lodge - Shiluvari Lodge | Noria, Elim, Limpopo, South Africa [2010 © greatguides.org] - Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge - Culture In South Africa - Roddy Bray's Great GuidesShiluvari is a gateway: Visitors can experience culture as a way of life by visiting artists in their homes, participating in festivals, and exploring community initiatives such as conserving the local indigenous forest.

In South Africa, which is a country of extremes, it is very unusual to find ways to 'cross the boundaries' and experience local culture.
Shiluvari helped to develop the Ribolla Arts Route

The lodge staff encouraged us to mingle and explore with local residents: Cooking Shangaan-style with the chef, preparing a Venda herbal massage and over-nighting with a family in a nearby village or in the forest. Professional guides from the surrounding communities are available to organise tours including visits to sacred sites and battlefields, and birding, boating and walking. It is very rare in South Africa to find a lodge encouraging such a personal involvement in the community.

The history of the lodge is fascinating, and reveals the deep roots that give rise to its committed values. The northernmost part of South Africa has a long history of racial conflict and proud, but sharply contrasting cultural traditions.

In 1897 George Liengme, a Swiss missionary, opened the first hospital north of Pretoria open to all races, in the settlement of Elim.

The friendships he developed continue between his descendants, the Girardin Family, and a spectrum of other local people, particularly the Hlungwane and Tlakula families.
Elim Hospital 1900 | Shiluvari Lodge - Shiluvari Lodge, Elim, Limpopo, South Africa [2007 © greatguides.org] - Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge - Culture In South Africa - Roddy Bray's Great Guides
The origins of Shiluvari go back to the missionary doctor George Liengme

In the years of South Africa’s racial conflict, they pioneered a place of reconciliation. This was particularly brave as the Northern Transvaal has a long history of racial conflict. The vanguard of Afrikaner trekkers settled the land in the nineteenth century and reduced the local Shangaan, Ndebele and Venda peoples to their workers. Makapan and other leaders tried to resist and paid a high price. When British forces moved north in the South African War of 1899 – 1902 the Afrikaners fought a long and bitter resistance. In the twentieth century the area became known as a stronghold of Apartheid, the system that suppressed the majority black population in South Africa. Tensions ran high as the country edged toward democracy in the early 1990s.

The friendships kindled by George Liengme, between the Girardin and other local families, were sustained despite Apartheid. And when in 1990, negotiations began, the Girardin, Hlungwane and Tlakula families saw the need for a place where people could meet and talk across the colour bar. Not only were there deep racial prejudices to overcome, but enormous cultural differences. The Venda people, in particular, are known for fascinating symbolism and strong spiritual beliefs, with tales of Python Gods, magic mountains and singing drums – a very different worldview to the Reformed tradition among Afrikaners.

Shiluvari Lodge - Shiluvari Lodge, Elim, Limpopo, South Africa [2012 © greatguides.org] - Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge - Culture In South Africa - Roddy Bray's Great GuidesOnce democracy was achieved in 1994 the families saw the opportunity to enable visitors to experience local culture and support local entrepreneurs and artists. At this place of reconciliation, set against the Soutpansberg Mountains, they created an intimate and comfortable lakeside lodge, decorated with local textiles and sculpture, from which visitors can explore this fascinating region.
Local textiles and art decorate the lodge


Author: Rachel Bray
Published Date: 22 Mar 2011
Location: Southern Africa | South Africa
Themes: travel, the arts | inspiring, craft, art