Community Tourism | Sustainable Community Development


  • “Heritage-based Arts, Crafts and Village Tourism Cluster for the northern Lowveld of Limpopo Province”. Main funding from Limpopo LED (EU) with co-funding from DBSA, MINTEK and the Mopani District Municipality. Total cost of project was R 1,4 million;
  • “Valley of the Olifants ~ Valley of Music” – Funding of R 6,5 million from National Lotteries Development Trust Fund. Project was managed jointly by Village Tourism Trust and the Haenertsburg Development Foundation;
  • Development of a Craft Market and Craft Development Organization for Mopani District – Awarded by Mopani District Municipality – cost R 206 000;
  • Development of Festival and Heritage Days - Awarded by Mopani District Municipality – cost R 180 000;
  • Partner in the development of the Thomo Heritage Park near Giyani. This was an EU-funded project that aimed to create a small economy around the village of Thomo by stimulating the craft sector and reviving the ancient art of iron smelting and the manufacture of iron implements and artefacts.


The basic aim of this exciting project is to create drama groups in various rural schools and amongst selected communities. The process is described as follows:

  1. Identify communities (specific individuals, villages, schools etc.) that could yield the most interesting and useful legends and folklore;
  2. Gather as many legends as possible with an emphasis on items that help to identify those aspects of the history, cultural heritage or traditions that define or are specific to that particular ethnic group;
  3. Edit and type up indicating details of the storyteller, name of village and date. Note: As far as editing is concerned, this is restricted to correcting grammatical errors, and does not try to add or subtract information that was not originally provided by the storyteller. Any ‘enhancement’ of the legends is achieved as and when they are selected for dramatization;
  4. Dramatization of the legends may be done in different ways:
  • Writing simple stage plays that may be performed by an identified age group i.e. junior or senior schoolchildren or adult ‘professionals’;
  • Writing the story as an audio-only production suitable for radio etc.;
  • Adding value to the play by including music of various kinds – drumming, choral singing, appropriate musical instruments, dancing etc.;
  • Creating stage plays that may use puppets, figurines, masks and silhouettes etc.;
  • Publication in a cost-effective format of selected stage and audio plays that can be distributed to schools for their own use;
  • Development of plays to be performed by one or two ‘storytellers’ around a fire or in a small ‘theatre’ environment (‘Fireside Theatre’).
  1. Stimulate ‘downstream’ activities associated with drama productions – i.e. costume design and making; making stage properties; designing, painting and constructing stage sets; facial make-up; lighting and stage management etc.;
  2. Drawing stylised images of the main characters in a story – i.e. giants, animals, grandparents, ‘forest folk’ etc. These could then be promoted amongst various local crafters such as ladies doing beadwork and embroidery so that they can be incorporated into craft items. For example, the ancient Grecian urns were vases or pots that had a story inscribed around the outside. This could also be done with clay and wooden items. In addition, sets of table linen (place mats, napkins and table cloths) could depict various legends and a short resume of such stories should be sold with the craft. This will help considerably to personalize craft items so that not all clay pots look exactly the same;
  3. Depending on the availability of local artists, it is also possible to create children’s storybooks with colourful characters based on the legends. A spin-off of this could be educational comics, T-shirts and posters etc.

A range of benefits can accrue if some or all of the above activities are undertaken. These will include the following:

  • Conservation of an important part of the cultural heritage of the local groups;
  • Stimulation of creative writing at school level. This need not be restricted to playwriting but may be extended to short story writing and poetry;
  • The introduction of a high element of fun into the somewhat boring school routines;
  • Stimulating acting and public speaking abilities;
  • Creating entertainment for other school children, parents, educators and the general public;
  • Performing at selected venues where an entrance fee may be charged and income could go towards meeting the costs of future productions or some special school projects that will benefit more than just the actual performers;
  • Creating enhanced awareness of the cultural heritage amongst the community;
  • Educating the youth about various social evils. However, it is desirable that this should be presented in a subdued manner at a ‘subliminal’ level, and the productions must not lose their sense of fun for the sake of conveying some deeper social message;
  • Using the successful productions (not only stage plays) to be the basis of inter-school or district competitions and also the foundation for an annual festival.

Involvement of potential playwrights and performers.

A number of young people have been identified as having the necessary skills and enthusiasm to become playwrights and/or to become involved in drama and ‘Fireside Theatre’ performances. Their names and capabilities are listed below:

Ms. Modjadji Hutama – Recorded many folklore stories and edited them. She also dramatised three legends in association with Michael Gardner and performed the leading female roles in the audio plays attached;

Ms. Cassandra Nkuna – Worked for two years at the Khanyisa National Youth Club where she helped the learners to understand drama. She wrote and directed her own play for an end-of-year performance and also took a leading role in a play written by Michael Gardner (‘An Eye for an Eye’) and performed and recorded at Thomo Heritage Park;

Mr. Pretty Ramahlako – Wrote poems that were included in the Anthology of ‘Poems from the Realm of the Rain Queen’. His has since worked on two play scripts where he is turning his hand from poetry to drama. Mr. Ramahlako intends to study drama and further his skills as a writer. He is also a fine young actor and played a leading part in a play performed at the Masalanabo High School near Modjadji in 2011. His portrayal of a grandfather was masterly!

Mr. Ephraim Jeremani – A pastor living in Haenertsburg. His skills at storytelling and acting have become a legend in the village and he has great potential to influence young people towards creative writing and drama productions. He plays the male roles in the audio plays attached as a CD.

In addition, Michael Gardner has attended a three-day training programme on puppet-making and puppet theatre play writing. These skills will be incorporated into the ‘Fireside Theatre’ performances as venues are developed.

A very important link also exists between the Village Tourism Trust and the “Roots of Rhythm” Group managed by Ms. Maureen Lahoud in Hoedspruit. Ms. Lahoud is a professional choreographer, producer and dancer and adapted Michael Gardner’s “Love Child” into a ‘musical’ with dancing, drumming and singing. Her knowledge of the theatre has been of great value in developing a portfolio of play scripts that can be performed by young professional players. She is also seeking funding to start her own small ‘Bush Theatre” on a game farm near Hoedspruit.


In July 2015, the National Lotteries Commission approved a grant of R 950 000 to the Village Tourism Trust for the establishment of three drama centres in Limpopo.

A selection of Legends & Folk stories from "The Valley of the Olifants"
Edited by Michael Gardener and Robin Gardner

Extracts from A selection of Legends & Folk stories from "The Valley of the Olifants"

An Anthology of Poems from The Realm of The Rain Queen
Published by Village Tourism Trust in 2012. Funded by National Lotteries Development Fund


Mbila finger piano