#LoveSA: Celebrating Heritage Month at SA’s national parks

2017-09-06 09:30 - Kavitha Pillay
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Mapungubwe National Park. (Photo: iStock)

Cape Town - September is ideally celebrated as Heritage and Tourism month in South Africa, with organisations across the tourism sector gearing towards events and activities centred on exploring Mzansi’s grandest attractions that boast our natural and cultural heritage.

South African National Parks (SANParks) began Tourism Month at Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site with a cultural and spiritual experience and lecture series to celebrate the richness and diversity of South Africa’s cultural heritage.

SANParks Managing Executive Tourism Development and Marketing, Hapiloe Sello says that the very first weekend of African Spirituality was held in 2016 at Golden Gate Highlands National Park, and this year it is held at Mapungubwe National Park with the aim "to expose people to the different spiritual significance found in the national parks”.

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Merging heritage and tourism, the festival was opened by the Director of African World Heritage Fund, Dr Webber Ndoro who conducted a lecture titled The Culture and History of Mapungubwe and its spiritual significance.

“The Park not only offers traditional tourism experiences but also spiritual experiences,” says Sello, adding that SANParks hopes that visitors “will have an opportunity to connect their spirituality and heritage.”

A gathering took place at the sacred Mapungubwe Hill to perform a spiritual invocation called Mophatlho - when a community elder, who is also a traditional healer, seeks permission to enter a sacred space and asks the ancestors for protection and light.

Walking up to #MapungubweHill

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Steeped in cultural heritage, Mapungubwe Hill is the site of an ancient southern African kingdom that traded with the east “before mysteriously disappearing”. According to SANParks, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape is considered a consecrated place by many communities living in Limpopo and across the border in Botswana and Zimbabwe.

“These communities have developed cultural traditions which they associate with the Mapungubwe Kingdom. These traditions include traditional dances that are unique to specific communities or areas in Limpopo,” says SANParks.

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If you’re unable to make a trip to Mapungubwe National Park to learn more about and celebrate SA’s diverse heritage, there’s no need to despair, as SANParks’ annual National Parks Week runs from 18 to 22 September.

Encouraging visitors to explore the country’s Parks during Tourism Month, National Parks Week aims to cultivate a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural, cultural and historical heritage, protected by the national parks system.

Free access will be granted during Parks Week, to most of the 21 national parks for day visitors - especially for people from the local communities. “It should be noted that free access to parks does not in include free access to accommodation facilities and other tourist activities,” advises SANParks.

Some of the parks will be extending the week to include the weekend. Click here for the full list of participating Parks and National Parks Week dates.

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