Credo Mutwa Village
In the heart of Soweto, in Central Western Jabavu, lies the endlessly interesting Credo Mutwa Cultural Village. On the corner of Ntsane and Majoeng streets, it is named after the painter, sculptor, environmentalist, herbalist, prophet and author who founded it.
It lies in the landscaped park of the Oppenheimer Gardens; together they offer a relaxed countryside feel in the urban sprawl.
Most of the artefacts in the park were created by Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, who was born on 21 July 1921 in KwaZulu-Natal. A sangoma and high sanusi, or chosen one, Mutwa is well known and highly respected for his work in nature conservation and as an author of groundbreaking books on African mythology and spiritual beliefs.
Paintings by Credo Mutwa have been donated by Shelley-Ann Hinks, who believes they should complement the mythological works in the village. Read Mutwa’s explanations of the paintings.
He began work in the park in 1974, continuing for a decade before he left Johannesburg.
Mutwa used a combination of modern and traditional materials including stone, reed thatching, recycled metals and cement, and was helped by a team of assistants he trained. Foremost among his apprentices was traditional artist Musa Ntanzi, who produced a number of the sculptures and structures.
Parts of the cultural village were damaged during the 1976 Soweto Uprising and many of the structures and sculptures fell into disrepair. However, restoration began in 2005 and is proceeding rapidly, returning the site to its former glory.
Now a seasoned artist in his own right, Ntanzi has returned in his middle years to lead the restoration work at the site which he helped to create as a young man.
As visitors approach the Khayalendaba, or place of stories, they are met by an ominous notice board, that reads:
“all liars, fools, sceptics and atheists” to keep out. “A curse lasting seven years shall fall on all who destroy any part of this place; they will be unlucky in all they do, be hunted like beasts and finally die in agony in lonely places and the vultures of the sky shall eat their flesh,”
The place is populated by mythical figures from African cosmology, legendary African warriors and icons of African nationalism – all Mutwa’s creations. The most captivating part of the park, the villages are home to Africa’s distinguished ancestors. Through his art, Mutwa has redefined their role in the evolution of African history.
Indigenous god-figures like Nomkhubulwane, the female goddess worshipped by the Nguni people; and Mvelinqange, a male deity reputedly worshipped in the pre-colonial era, dwarf the other statues.
Next to the Zulu village is the Basotho village, complete with huts and kraals. It tells the story of shepherds playing morabaraba – a traditional African board game dating back thousands of years – while guarding their livestock from marauding leopards.
There is also the Arab village, constructed by Mutwa, with oriental architecture and a mosque occupying pride of place.
Prehistoric African mammals – presumably long extinct but reincarnated by Mutwa – include a three-horned beast called “triotribes” and a dragon-like creature called “titamogofaudon”. Relics in the park include a fireplace once used by the prophet to manufacture spears, traditional jewellery and other ornaments.
The Credo Mutwa Cultural Village provides hours of education and entertainment for young and old alike, and is a “must-see” for locals and tourists.
Information and pictures all courtesy of joburg.org.za/culture.