The Lemba of Southern
From the PBS series NOVAs "companion
web site" for "The
Lost Tribes of Israel," the
programs investigation of the Lemba and
their heritage. Tudor Parfitt is author of Journey
to the Vanished City, a fascinating
book about his several months living with the
Lemba and trying to find their legendary city of
If you would like to contact the Lemba, you may write to the community by sending an e-mail to:
Dr. Gedzu Mathivha, son of the Dr. Mathivha who was long-time President of the Lemba Cultural Association, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or to contact the Lemba in Zimbabwe, you may connect with an elder of the community:
Mr. Lawrence R. Matandu
P. Box 249
Sending a letter to South Africa or Zimbabwe takes a couple weeks. Make your initial contact far in advance of your visit Ė if your letter takes two weeks to get there, theirs will take at least that long to get to you.
Contact the community at the above address to indicate your interest in visiting and tell them when you plan to arrive and how long you would like to stay. Please be respectful of the fact that the Lemba may not be interested in having "point-and-click" tourists visit them -- those who just come for a day or two to gawk, take some photos and go home. If you have a longer-term plan, be sure to connect with the community and make sure their plans and yours fit together.
Most Lemba live in the Northern Province of South Africa or in the Southwestern rural areas of Zimbabwe. Louis Trichardt is the primary city in South Africaís Northern Province. To get there, fly into Johannesburg (about $1500 round trip from the U.S. depending on the season and where you get your ticket) and either take a taxi from the airport to the bus/train station and take a bus or train to Louis Trichardt.
You will be responsible for your food and lodging while youíre in the Northern Province. Stay in Louis Trichardt. The streets of Louis Trichardt are safer than those of Johannesburg, but youíd still be advised to arrive and make hotel arrangements during the day. South Africans speak English so youíll have no trouble communicating.
If you would like to visit the Lemba in Zimbabwe, you will have to get to Mberengwe. You should fly to Harare (about $1500 round trip from the U.S. depending on the season and where you get your ticket). The trip to Mberengwe is LONG, and over dirt roads, and you will need to leave many hours, if not days, to get there. Consult the Lonely Planet guide to Zimbabwe for details of how to get to Mberengwe, and if that isnít helpful, contact me and Iíll try to give advice on how to go about it. Specifically, you are looking to reach the Danga Township/Mposi Area near Mberwengwe. Many Zimbabweans speak English but some Lemba do not, so in the rural areas you may need to hire a local translator.
If you are unfamiliar with traveling in Africa I recommend picking up a copy of Lonely Planetís South Africa and Zimbabwe travel guides. The Lonely Planet books are invaluable for their practical advice while youíre budget traveling in Africa. If youíre curious about prices or distances between points, consult the Lonely Planet guide and youíll get a pretty good idea of the current rates and bus timetables. If not, contact me and Iíll give you advice.
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