I am still astounded as to how South Africa can be this beautiful. Lake Fundudzi is known to the people of the Northern region side of Limpopo Thohoyandou, South Africa.
My first encounter driving on the gravel red, dusty roads leading to the lake was how these superwomen were able to carry heavy branches of trees on their heads and with some, draping a cloth around themselves carrying avocados. Walking together, the three women just smiled and gave me a warm greeting.
Even though it is a sacred place for the VhaVenda culture, Fundudzi River is most treasured and a place where rituals are performed. Stories of how well guarded and kept the place is was something I was interested in learning. The lake is believed to be guarded by the python god who surrounds the whole lake and usually plays a drum where people can hear the beats.
The lake is bordered by the Dzwainni Mountains, Limpopo Thohoyandou with its beautiful flowers and trees. Visitors here are obliged to not burn trees and respect the area. Unfortunately the Fundudzi Lake in winter does not have enough water as there is not enough rainfall. The river is believed to have had disturbing water levels in which the river can rise and fall independently because of rainfall. The level of the water at the Fundudzi Lake represents what mood the python god is in.
The lake Fundudzi and the Thathe Vondo forest are regarded as the two most sacred places in the spiritual life of the VhaVenda people.
Thathe Vondo Forest
The lake Fundudzi is surrounded by the Thathe Vondo forests where Venda Chiefs were buried for untold generations. This forest is believed to have evidence of two mystical creatures keeping guard. The white lion which is the spirit of the Nethathe (the leader clan of Thathe, Chief) the Thunder and Lightning bird called Ndadzi (clan name) which according to myths it will fly in wings of the thunder, and its eyes flash lightning.
Fundudzi Cultural Camp
Beneath the magnificent forests and plantation lies the beautiful hiking and long distance walking fundudzi camp. The Fundudzi cultural camp is situated just above the Mukumbani Village, on the Luaname Mountains, Limpopo. The place is beautifully crafted with Venda traditional arts and handiwork, with hiking paths. Behind the plantation lies the indigenous sacred forest and lake called the Fundudzi Lake, with its articulate views.
It is a spiritual ritual performed only by young virgin females. Whenever the chief wants to get married, a Domba will be performed and he will pick from the Domba young women whom he wants to get married to. The ritual is also performed to wish good luck for the next years seasons rain and to also appease the ancestors. This is only performed by virgins while also educating them on how to behave in front of adults and how to treat their husbands. A small apron called the (shedo) is worn to cover the front parts of the young virgins. The use of these practices is so they young females know that they must stay pure and not engage in any sexual practices. Domba is seen as a good practice in the Venda and is not just for the young girls but also the gentlemen. The python god is also celebrated through these rituals of which people believe that it loves the attention. After the ritual one of the Domba young girls’ will have to pour beer into the lake of which if the water mixes with water then it is a sign that the season will be good.
History of the Fundudzi Lake:
20000 years ago, an earthquake erupted therefore leading to the blockage of the Mutale River and creating the Fundudzi Lake which later became home to the sacred python god. Fundudzi Lake is located in the fine lands of Thohoyandou, Northern side region of Limpopo South Africa. The lake is believed to be protected by the python god that plays drums of which residents can hear. It is celebrated by the VhaVenda culture annually as they gather in numbers and virgin young girls will dress in their Domba attires, singing and dancing around in a snake movement around a fire circle.
There are three additional lakes that pour into the Fundudzi Lake and although all three spill in this lake, it is believed that the lake can never be full. The lake is believed to be infested by crocodiles that also protect it.
“Trips to the lake are rarely granted visitors, which is probably just as well as it is said to be infested with crocodiles. The lake which is regarded sacred, guests have to turn their backs on the lake and view the water from between their legs.” The lake Fundudzi means ‘fundu’ bending with your back to the lack and ‘Dzi’ means lake. Fundudzi Lake is owned by the people who respect and honour the lake. It is protected by the clans of; Netshitangani, Netshiheni, Netshiavha and Netshidzivhe. This place is safely kept under the protection and guidance of their late ancestral Chiefs. Residents here believe that the spirit of the late Nethathe appears in the form of a white lion.
When approaching the Fundudzi River you must turn your back towards the water, bend and view it from upside down between your legs, to show respect to the lake. Bending and viewing the lake between your legs is mostly done by the women who have lost their virginity.
A white crocodile is said to surround the lake, and when a Venda king dies and their remains were placed in the lake this crocodile would cough up a stone of which any of the men will have to swallow in that way it will show whether he is the next king or not. The spirits of these ancestors are believed to reside beneath the surface of the Fundudzi Lake and they are guarded by the white crocodile. No one is allowed to bath or wash they laundry here.
It is believed that if you kill any snake by the lake, you will be summoned to the Chief. The python god is believed to really love virgin females hence the Domba ritual is the most respected rituals. The history behind the python god is said that, “there once lived a python by the lake and someday a woman approached the lake where the python was. Due to the woman having scared the python it dived deeper into the lake, only to find that the curious virgin woman also sacrificed herself and went into the lake.”
The Phiphidi Lake:
The nearby waterfalls I would say are worth the visit are the Phiphidi and Mahovhovho waterfalls. The Phiphidi Lake is well regarded as one of the sacred places where it is important in the Venda culture. The lake is situated within the forest area on the Mutshindudi River and is home to some of the sacred sites that other VhaVenda clans care for, including the Fundudzi Lake and the Thathe Vondo sacred forest. The most sacred waterfalls are called the LanwaDzongolo and the pool below, Guvhukuvhu.
Being at this place is beautiful and just intriguing. Surrounded by nothing but just the natural life is relaxing and therapeutic. Learning about the Fundudzi together with the actual links to where it all started was beautiful and worth learning.