Open Africa

Celebrating Open Africa’s wonderful women

07 Aug 2017

This Wednesday, we’ll be celebrating Women’s Day here in South Africa, commemorating 9 August 1956 when 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against legislation that required people of colour to carry a pass.

Although the law became a tragic reality, the march served as proof that despite the divides forced upon people, it was always still possible to stand together and fight for what is right.

As we keep the brave women of 1956 in our thoughts this Women’s Month, we’re also celebrating each and every one of the ladies that make our Open Africa experiences as memorable as they are.

Here are a few of the wonder women you’ll meet when you sign up for an adventure with us. 

Ma Florah – pottery queen

Along with a group of local ladies, Ma Florah is famous for the enthusiastic welcome and gentle guidance she offers guests at Mukhondeni Pottery Village on the Ribola Art Route in Limpopo.

When you sign up for our Get Craft in Mbhokota, you’re sure to meet this legendary lady and have her introduce you to the traditional Venda art of pot-making. Florah’s mother, Sarah Randela, started the pottery school when she noticed that local girls and women were no longer being taught this traditional craft and were missing out on an essential part of their culture.

After Sarah’s death, Florah has faithfully continued her mother’s good work in the local community and also loves welcoming visitors from far and wide into their world. 

Image: Carlinn Meyer

Image: Carlinn Meyer

The cheerful ladies of Twananani Textiles

Colourful wall paintings, carrying important symbols and telling intriguing tales, are an integral part of home decoration in the villages of northern Limpopo. Traditionally, these murals were made by the local women, using mixtures of colour oxides, lime and mud mixtures to produce the vivid colours.

In a similar way to which Sarah Randela started the Mukhondeni Pottery Village, Tawanani Textiles came to be in 1983 when a group of women from Mbokota Village decided to help preserve this beautiful part of their culture through developing a simple textile process incorporating these patterns into fabric designs.

Still going strong, Twananani Textiles now has 24 women producing magnificent batik-type cloths, carrying these traditional symbols and stories. Some are sewn up into garments, cushions and handbags, while others are left as is for people to buy and make creations of their own.

You can even help paint textiles when you sign up for our Feel the Art Beat of Limpopo experience. 

Image: Yann Macherez

Image: Yann Macherez

Aunt Koera – warm heart of the Kalahari

While it may be the fresh roosterkoek and hearty, traditional Kalahari cuisine that draws people to visit Aunth Koera’s Farm Kitchen, it’s her warmth, hospitality and tenacity that will make you want to stay for as long as you possibly can.

During a recent visit to this region, Getaway journalist Melanie van Zyl pinpointed her dinner with Aunt Koera as a definite highlight, saying: “Dinner with her really stood out for me because she is an amazingly intrepid lady. An entrepreneur that’s working hard to make the most of her circumstances and found a gap in the market to cook for visitors coming to the Kalahari. She joined us for dinner and shared some of her cooking tips too. It was a very special evening to sit sit around the fire with her and eat the meal with solar lanterns and great company.” 

Photo: Anna-Belle Durrant

Photo: Anna-Belle Durrant

The fierce Chavani Dance Group

There are few things more beautiful than seeing women of all ages, joined together in the throes of passionate, traditional dance.

With colourful skirts tied around their waists, beaded anklets jangling around their legs and ornamental axes in hand, the Chavani Dance Group’s performance of the Tsonga/Shangaan Xibelani dance is an absolute must-see on the Ribola Art Route.

Stomping feet to the beat of drums and singing at the top of their lungs, you can see that these women and girls take great pride in their heritage, no doubt passing this on to their daughters and their daughters’ daughters too.

See this fierce beauty for yourself when you sign up for our Sights and Sounds of Mbhokota experience

Photo: Yann Macherez

Photo: Yann Macherez

Barbara Raats – feisty keeper of Khomani San traditions

Another amazing entrepreneur of the Kalahari, Barbara Raats developed an idea to build grass huts (similar to that of the San traditional homes) and offer homestays to tourists a few years ago.

Her idea received a boost when Open Africa launched a programme along the Kalahari Red Dune Route in 2013. In less than two years, Barbara was able to open her business and she now offers accommodation for up-to 8 people and has plans to build another two units to further increase her capacity.

Support Barbara’s incredible initiative by joining us for our Glamping in the Northern Cape experience

All our fabulous female homestay hosts

While our wonderful homestay hosts aren’t exclusively female, it’s only fair that we focus on the women this month. Sorry, boys!

So, here’s to each and every one of the ladies who juggle their responsibilities as mothers, grandmothers, sisters, friends and community leaders with their exceptional ability to welcome visitors from all corners of the world. With precious little to spare, these women – most often based in townships and rural areas – have precious little of their own, but haven’t let that deter them from starting businesses and realising their entrepreneurial dreams.

Recently, a few of our Western Cape homestay hosts even got to attend a course with the support from Airbnb to help them boost their businesses even further with the establishment of stellar online profiles.

So, hats off to each and every one of the women affiliated with Open Africa, working hard to make better lives – not only for themselves, but also their communities!

Happy Women’s Month to all of you!


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