The Rich Spiritual & Cultural Traditions of The Matobo Hills
Peppered with stunning caves, rock art, and sacred hills and shrines, the Matobo Hills represent a blending of traditional Khoisan, Bantu and settler European values.
The Hills setting on 3100 km² of land, which comprises a National Park, communal land, granite kopjes and wooded valleys, offers a stunning panorama of constantly changing landscape around the area.
Lying just 35 km south of Bulawayo, the Matobo Hills were declared a world heritage site in 2003 for their high concentrations of rock art and the long-standing religious traditions still associated with the landscape.
Archaeologists say man has inhabited Matobo since the stone age.
The San Bushmen
Stone tools as old as 50 000 years, have been excavated from the floors of the caves, and the 13 000-year-old paintings in those caves and rocks still illustrate a vivid picture of San culture.
For instance, Bambata Cave has been excavated to 15 meters providing incredible deposits of remains, dating from around 2000 years ago to some material dating over 250,000 years old!
The cave wall is littered with wild animal outlines, paintings and sketches such as Elephant, Zebra, Rhino, kudu as well as a plethora of other animals. The wall is adorned with mystic and ancient abstract paintings done in a wild variety of dazzlingly beautiful colours.
Some of the paintings are suspected to be part of mystical trance ceremonies that took place.
The paintings that are more telling are the ones that are at Silozwane cave. They are even more beautiful and delicate, illustrating paintings of giraffe as well as traditional hunting scenes.
There are also paintings of very large humans, up to four feet in length, painted in a dark red ochre.
In Silozwane Cave you will find all the traditional scenes that can be seen in rock art sites throughout the Matobo Hills.
The Hills and Bantu Tribes
Towering above the caves, the hills beckon visitors to explore the surrounding areas.
The hills in Matobo have been the religious headquarters of many Bantu tribes since the 15th Century.
Rain dances and other religious ceremonies were held there and to this day, some still believe that a number of hills should not be pointed at, that would just bring bad luck.
Before the colonial era, Matobo was the headquarters of the spiritualist oracle, the Mlimo.
In fact, it is said that Mlimo, the spiritual leader of the Ndebele people, used Silozwane Cave as a shrine.
The Hill of the Benevolent Spirits or Malindidzimu offers an epic 360-degree view of the Matobo National Park.
White Settlers in the Matobo Hills
Cecil Rhodes, Leander Starr Jameson, and several other leading early white settlers, including Allan Wilson and all the members of the Shangani Patrol killed in the First Matabele War, are buried on the summit of Malindidzimu.
Rhodes fell in love with this hill hence he named it the ‘View of the World’ and it is easy to grasp why he chose this spot as his final resting place – unbelievably beautiful views surround you in every direction.
A memorial shrine, erected by the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTH), an organization that seeks to commemorate the sacrifice of Rhodesian servicemen and women during World War One and World War Two, can also be accessed within the Park
There’s a reason Matobo (sometimes spelled Matopos) has drawn a growing stream of visitors in recent years.
It is a land that has it all: A rare combination of natural and manmade splendour with rich spiritual and cultural traditions that appeals equally to the pilgrim, the backpacker, and the ecotourist.