The Tsonga Kraal Open-Air Museum in Hans Merensky Nature Reserve | iinfo TZANEEN

The Tsonga Kraal Open-Air Museum is a full-sized model of a Tsonga village, depicting the homestead of a real Tsonga chief — Muti Va Mutsonga — his eight wives, and his children. This homestead still existed as late as the1970s near the town of Giyani. Touring the homestead provides visitors with an idea of what traditional Tsonga culture and daily life would have been like a century ago.
 
While the Tsonga Kraal is not as lively today as it has been in the past — unless you’re lucky you probably won’t find live performances or cultural demonstrations happening in the kraal on a normal weekday afternoon — the buildings of the open-air museum are in excellent condition and are interesting and informative. The official Tsonga Kraal tour guide wasn’t there on the day I visited, but I received an enthusiastic tour from one of the security guards who himself grew up in a traditional Tsonga household. 
 
Each building in the kraal serves a specific purpose — home for the first wife, kitchen for the first wife, home for the youngest wife, dwelling for uninitiated girls, maize storage unit, beer brewing shed, iron-working area, livestock kraal, etc. I was interested to learn that the youngest wife traditionally lived in the largest hut with the most comfortable bed, since that is where the chief slept the majority of the time.
 
Clay pots, kangas, and other traditional items are on display in the kraal, which visitors are welcome to touch or even try on. In the early morning or late afternoon, you might find a herd of goats grazing in the kraal. 
 
Next to the open-air museum is a very well curated and up-to-date indoor museum, with colourful posters, photographs, and artefacts covering Tsonga history — including the Tsonga-Shangaan migration from Mozambique to South Africa — culture, language, art, and music in great detail. Do not miss this part of the Tsonga Kraal as it is the most interesting and informative part of the museum. 
 
The indoor and outdoor sections of the museum can be fully explored in about an hour. Bring water and a sun hat, as the Tsonga Kraal can get very hot even during winter.
 
The Tsonga Kraal Open-Air Museum is in the Hans Merensky Nature Reserve, on the Phalaborwa-Giyani Road (R521) west of the Kruger National Park. GPS coordinates: -23.646082, 30.671220. To reach the Tsonga Kraal, follow the signs to the Eiland Spa Resort. The entrance to the Hans Merensky Nature Reserve is just before the Eiland Spa. Once inside the nature reserve, which has free admission, ask directions to the Tsonga Kraal. (Note: The somewhat dilapidated cultural museum right inside the entrance to the nature reserve is not the Tsonga Kraal — you must follow the signs further into the reserve to reach the kraal.) Open Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Call 015-386-8727 for more information.

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