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A township experience with a difference

Thoko Jli, a South African tour guide, dances at Mzinyathi.

Thoko Jli, a South African tour guide, dances at Mzinyathi.

Published Oct 2, 2017


I am going on my second Inanda Tour, but this one is notably different than the first. It has more personalised stories, more local flavour and everything is Proudly South African.

The men play a traditional game of Umlabala.

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People visit Durban for its warm beaches and its authentic cuisine, but what they should be doing is visiting the Inanda Heritage Route with WOWZulu. WOWZulu, a local organisation thriving on boosting entrepreneurship with communities.

Touring the Ohlange Institute.

I meet Briony Smith, one of the organisers of today’s trip. She tells me that 80 percent of the money received from the tours go towards the upliftment of the community. Our meeting point is the Ohlange Institute, the place where the ANC’s first president, John Dube, founded the movement in the early 1900s. The Ohlange Institute itself is filled with history. It was the place where Nelson Mandela cast his first democratic vote, in remembrance of Dube’s sacrifices for freedom.

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Greeting us is storyteller Dipo Mhlongo, who shares the story of KwaZulu-Natal in an energetic spectacle. He details KwaZulu-Natal offerings like the Drakensberg Mountains and the local heros and heroines of Inanda in his storytelling.

Afterwards, we were given a tour of the institute, followed by coffee at the market that is located within the property. The market is filled with some of the most stunning African art and beadwork and is kitted with a cafe that serves delicious coffee.

Thoko Jli, a South African tour guide, dances at Mzinyathi.

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Since there was so much to explore, we had to leave to the rural community of Mzinyathi. I was excited to visit a rural community, especially since the ones I have been to before was never as authentic as I would have hoped it would be.

Mma Mtshali pours the uqombothi(traditional beer). Pictures: Zanele Zulu.

Local Eunice Mtshali was up the hill overlooking our bus when we arrived. She let out a loud cheer and danced around. It was her birthday and she was very happy to see us. Known as Mma Mtshali, she will teach us to do beadwork. Everyone who visits, including the men, are taught to bead. Sometimes the men keep it as a souvenir or give it to their ladies back home. The beading lesson takes up to 3 hours and includes work on the Zulu Love Letter.

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Mma Mtshali kneels before Malusi Sabelo, Sanele Mhlongo and Geoffrey Bergh-Lloyd as she presents them with uqombothi(traditional beer).

While Mma Mtshali taught us to bead, a skill that I know I did not master in one class, she passed around the umqombothu (traditional beer) and later poured the mfulamfula (river river), a slightly stronger beer with a pineapple taste to it. The beer is only meant to be drank by the men of the household and not the female.

As men are allowed to have more than one wife, the huts are structured in a way that it separates the different wives, boys and girls. I discovered that the kitchen was where they spoke to the ancestors and discussed important matters.

The view of the rural township from atop the hills are breathtaking. You can see cattle grazing and locals going on with their daily routines. By midday, we had all worked up an appetite.

We visited Ohlange Rocks, a restaurant nestled within a community for a traditional shisa nyama experience. As a vegetarian, I absolutely loved the bean puthu and chakalaka with a hint of heat. Other guests raved about the braaied meat.

I enjoyed the trip because the locals showcased their history and culture in an authentic way. It should definitely be on the to do list when visiting Durban.

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