Discover the Least-Talked-About Art Route in SA | Inspire
Discover the Least-Talked-About Art Route in SA
Places to Go
Places to Go

Discover the Least-Talked-About Art Route in SA

Itching for a road trip with a difference? Head north to Limpopo and lose yourself in the mystical nature and welcoming people of the Ribola Art Route.

Named for the legendary mountain that looms above it, the Ribola Art Route is an informal network of traditional artists based in and around the tiny town of Mukondeni in northern Limpopo. Assisted by Open Africa, a social enterprise that promotes rural tourism routes to benefit communities, the sculptors, potters, musicians, and textile makers of the Ribola Art Route open their homes and studios to tourists, teaching their crafts to those interested in learning. Just over four hours' drive from Jo'burg, the route to Mukondeni is a boring highway until you reach Polokwane. From there the roads grow narrower and more rural, and many secondary routes are dirt or gravel. Beware of your GPS, which may inadvertently send you down cattle paths masquerading as roads. The navigation is tricky but worth it – Northern Limpopo's winding brown roads, green acacia clouds, mist-shrouded mountains and dusty sunsets can only be described as mystical.

Once in Mukondeni, all roads except the main route through town are rutted and potholed. Drive carefully and leave plenty of space in the boot – you'll need it for the art you buy. Best car for the journey: The Mercedes-Benz GLE 63. It’s off-road ability will give you confidence on Limpopo's gravel routes and it’s amazing Bang & Olufsen 14-speaker sound system will provide all the cabin atmosphere required.

4 good reasons to visit the Ribola Art Route:

1. A true escape

The route is easily reachable from Jo’burg for a long weekend but feels light-years away from reality. Squatting outside sculptor Patrick Manyike's one-room hut in the blazing midday heat, watching him coax a man's face from a cylinder of wood using a tool fashioned from a discarded butter knife, is a surreal experience. 

2. Unique, affordable art

The artwork along the Ribola Route is not available in city souvenir shops or galleries. Women like Flora Randela and Esther Nesengani, who run Mukondeni Village Pottery, have been handcrafting their earth-toned pots for more than 35 years and sell them only from Mukhondeni. Their art is ridiculously affordable without middlemen to hike up the price.

3. Community support

The Ribola Art Route is designed to benefit locals as well as tourists. This area is difficult to access and navigate without assistance, so visitors are paired with local guides trained through an Open Africa youth programme. All of the money that visitors spend goes directly to the local community. 

4. Natural beauty

Limpopo’s sunrises and sunsets are unbeatable. Book a night at Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge in the nearby town of Elim, set your alarm for early, and stroll down to the shore of Albasini Dam. You’ll see. For more information on the Ribola Art Route, contact Open Africa. Discover how to turn your dream of driving a Mercedes-Benz into reality here

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