cape town tour

Limpopo and the Mapungubwe Rhinoceros

We’ve clients travelling in the northernmost part of South Africa this week as we said yesterday, in the province of Limpopo.

The story of the Limpopo border region between South African and Zimbabwe is a fascinating one, playing out over the last 800 years, and it’s all centered round a tiny golden rhinoceros.

The golden rhinoceros was recovered in 1934 from a royal grave at the site of Mapungubwe in northern South Africa close to the border of Zimbabwe. Its creation in the 13th century is a reflection of the wealth of the state of Mapungubwe, southern Africa’s earliest known kingdom.

Why is this little rhinoceros so important?  Because it proved to all those that didn’t want it to be true that black Africans had a thriving economic and artistic culture way before the arrival of white settlers in the 1600s.

Long distance trade in the region was previously thought to have been based solely on ivory and animal skins in return for glass beads.  So this tiny golden rhinoceros proved without doubt that trade and artistry was at a far more sophisticated level than white civilisations at the time in Europe.

The power of the golden rhinoceros, and other finds from Mapungubwe, were suppressed by the ruling elite of the 1930s with the white South African government acknowledged their potency by marginalising them (or removing them) within official South African narratives.

By contrast, this sculpture demonstrated that black South Africans had occupied the region for a least 1,000 years before the arrival of Europeans.

In 2002 the ANC created the Order of Mapungubwe, the highest honour in South Africa, of which there are four classes: platinum, gold, silver and bronze. Nelson Mandela was the first to receive the highest of these awards, platinum. At the centre of the award is a representation of the gold rhinoceros.

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About

We’re an ethical private travel planning company focused on Southern Africa.

We offer ready-made and also customised holidays and journeys across this unique region of the world.

When our clients travel with us, they are assured that their travel spend is directly supporting local African companies that offer sustainable products and services, both in terms of people and planet.

Ethos

Our logo is an image of a skull found in the Rising Star Cave System in Gauteng, South Africa in 2013. It was named ‘homo naledi’, meaning ‘human of the stars’.

The cave system has so far given rise to the remains of over 15 individuals, making it the largest hominid fossil remains site ever discovered.

Travelling to Southern Africa is truly a return to the source of humankind, to Where It All Began.