The Dancing Fish gallery, Limpopo

The Dancing Fish gallery in the Soutpansberg offers a finely executed, informative display on the cultures of South Africa’s northern Limpopo province. Based at the Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge just outside Makhado, the gallery provides an insightful overview of the art and crafts – past and present – of the Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho people.

The Dancing Fish gallery at the Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge is a welcome addition to the area around Makhado (formerly Louis Trichardt) in South Africa’s Limpopo province. More a small, modern museum than a commercial gallery, the building houses a permanent exhibition on the culture of the Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho people.

The gallery has quickly established itself as an authoritative source on the artistic heritage of the province's primary cultural groups. Visitors can see and read about how the area's arts and crafts have developed through traditional, transitional and contemporary phases.

Together with renowned cultural anthropologist Petra Terblanche, the Dutch owner of the lodge, Marcelle Bosch, has ensured that the exhibit is both comprehensive and thoroughly researched.

In addition to the main exhibition, the gallery also offers some informative displays on traditional healing, musical instruments from the area, food, and traditional storytelling. The gallery’s resource centre makes available background information, research documentation, music and documentaries to those who want to learn more.

Madi a Thavha also has a shop that sells a range of items made by local artists and crafters, including original carvings, home décor products, jewellery and small gifts. The lodge’s own impressive collection of contemporary Southern African artworks features throughout its rooms.

As Madi a Thavha’s host, Bosch is intimately familiar with the artists and crafters currently working in the area. Packages or custom tours, guided by Bosch or one of the excellent local guides she works with, can be arranged. During these tours, you can visit many of the artists whose work features in the gallery.

Travel tips & Planning info

How to get here

Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge is located 390km from Pretoria. Take the N1 to Makhado (Louis Trichardt). At the first four-way stop in Makhado, turn left on to the R522 to Vivo and follow this road for about 8.5km. Just after the 100km sign, you will see a brown tourism sign indicating Madi a Thavha. Here you turn right on to an untarred road. Follow the untarred road for about 2.5km, and keep following the signs to Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge.

Best time to visit

The Dancing Fish gallery can be visited throughout the year. The mild Limpopo winters are perfect for day excursions to visit the artists and crafters who have helped put this area on the map.

Where to stay

Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge offers a range of accommodation options. The modern rooms are full of original art, mostly produced by contemporary artists from the area. There is also a small campsite.

What to eat

Madi a Thavha offers both catered and self-catering accommodation options. While in the area, enquire about the best local places to eat in Elim and Thohoyandou and experience the area's cuisine.

What's happening

Madi a Thavha offers a number of pretty mountain trails, a swimming pool and outdoor play facilities for children. Cycling in the area is also great. Ask the hosts about the creative workshops they offer from time to time. Birdwatchers can arrange a skilled guide to explore the avian richness of the area.

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