Why the Limpopo Marula Festival is important for SA heritage - and why you should go

2019-01-22 12:00 - Gabi Zietsman
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When most people think of the marula fruit, images of drunken elephants or the creamy drink are probably the first thing that comes to mind.

What you may not know, is that the marula is bound up in a myriad of traditions and forms an important part, not only, of Limpopo and South Africa's heritage, but Southern Africa at large as well.

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Wild-grown outside of normal agricultural practices, the small yellow fruit are collected from January to March and traditionally used by women to brew a sour beer, offered to their husbands for praise, but also used for juice and other medicinal purposes.

The marula tree is protected by the communities and by law, and heavy fines befall those who decide to chop one down for any reason. Between the Department of Environmental Affairs and SANParks, awareness raising and reforestation campaigns aim to make the tree flourish in a sustainable manner, bringing economic benefit to communities.

This thousand-year-old fruit is celebrated by the Limpopo province with their annual Marula Festival held in Ba-Phalaborwa, now in its 14th year, with jubilant celebrations through music, art, cuisine and educational activities.

READ: Limpopo festivals: Why it's the party province right now

Tasting the first of the season's marula beer at the launch of the Limpopo Marula Festival. (Video: Gabi Zietsman)

What you should know:

When: 23 February - 2 March

Tickets: R150, you can buy it here. 

More info: Check out their Facebook page.

poster for marula festival with dates

(Photo: Limpopo Tourism Authority)

"The Limpopo Annual Marula Festival is an opportunity to remind ourselves, as well as the South African population, that the wealth of the people lay within their respective communities, the wealth of the people lay within their land," said Seaparo Sekoati, the MEC of Limpopo's Economic Development, Environment and Tourism Department (LEDET) at the launch of the event at Palala Boutique Game Reserve.

The theme for the festival for the next five years will be 'Discover the Wealth of Marula', but the festival also provides visitors with a chance to explore the rest of Limpopo and share in its natural beauty and cultural experiences. The event alone is expected to bring in R45 million to the local economy of Ba-Phalaborwa and the Mopani District, according to Sekoati.

SEE: Road tripping for the hops: Craft breweries of Limpopo and Mpumalanga

Although the acts have not been announced, the festival organisers will be looking for performers in the Vhembe District to help mould and showcase in the Youth Festival and the Jazz and Gospel section of the programme. The fresh new talent will be complemented by known local artists as well as international acts.

In 2020, the festival will move to the Limpopo Marula Hub at Ingwe Park 3km outside of Phalaborwa, which will be created to develop and create products from the marula fruit for distribution.

"We therefore hope that the people of South Africa, SADC region, and other international guests will warmly embrace and continue to support efforts made by the Limpopo government through programmes such as this, which aims to alleviate poverty by embracing culture, diversity and heritage."

WATCH: Get wild with Mabula Game Lodge

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