Africa Tours that Reveal Exceptional Art and Music

Visual arts; Maasai dancing; the mesmerizing rhythms of drums, jazz, kwaito; sculpture gardens; and splendid UNESCO World Heritage sites: Africa’s music and art is boundless. And it’s not confined to museums and concert halls. Our Africa tours, including Incredible Africa, our private jet expedition, take you to cultural sites carved into the landscape itself. Imagine: a vast, outdoor classroom to explore.

Ancient treasures of stone and rock

Some 900 years ago, the Ethiopian King Lalibela ordered 11 subterranean churches to be hewn from living rock. Pilgrims still visit this labyrinthine site, coming upon the shadowy, stone churches through well-worn pathways; priests read from Bibles adorned with illustrations; children paint bright prayer sashes. Lalibela is justifiably a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another is Luxor, Egypt, sometimes called the world’s greatest open-air museum and once known as Thebes, city of the God Amon. The Nile glides between the Luxor Temple, flanked by an avenue of enigmatic stone sphinxes, and the Necropolis with its Valley of the Kings, where over 60 massive royal tombs rest beneath a peak named Al Qurn (The Horn). How to Visit: Incredible Africa touches down in Lalibela and Luxor. Alternatively, speak to a Trip Planner to design a custom trip that includes these sites. And there’s an African Wildlife Foundation-led expedition to Ethiopia set for October…

Contemporary stone and metal

Table Mountain sandstone is famous; Africa’s artists not far behind. Open-air spaces to see excellent contemporary sculpture include the gardens of the new Norval Foundation, a wetland filled with fragrant indigenous fynbos (don’t miss the well-curated and contextualized exhibitions inside). There are views on the rooftop of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa – its floor is an artwork by Togo’s El Loko – plus a wealth of installation and other sculptural pieces in its energizing shows in the vast atrium and many galleries. In Stellenbosch, wildlife master sculptor Dylan Lewis’ bronze creations spring into view on a mountain slope; Lewis is interested in “the wilderness within”. Various lovely vineyards boast outdoor art, and there’s also the incomparably beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, which has a sculpture garden filled with Zimbabwean Mambo pieces, carved from serpentine. How to visit: Cape Town is awash with galleries, museums, sculpture gardens, and foundries. Speak to us about creating a bespoke trip to this hotspot of art. Incredible Africa, too, touches down in Cape Town in 2020 and has arranged a private group tour of the Zeitz MOCAA.

Living History in the Masai Mara

To walk over plains with a Maasai guide, seeing nature through another’s attuned eyes, is one way to access elements of this venerable culture. Often dressed in the irrepressibly colored shuka (cloth, often red), Maasai are very much a part of contemporary Kenya, but retain many cultural traditions. Artwork includes beading, whereas traditional music is vocal, a rhythmic chorus of harmonic voices that acknowledges a melodic namba (line or title). Some contemporary Kenyan and Tanzanian music has borrowed from these rhythms. Then there’s dancing: watch the competitive adumu, in which warriors win acclaim for the heights they can jump. How to visit: Incredible Africa visits the Masai Mara on its 2020 expedition, and our African Wildlife Founddation-led safaris explore Maasai conservation and community projects. Custom-built Africa tours can also take you to meet Maasai.

Drums, gospel, art at Victoria Falls

The Victoria Falls Carnival draws regional Southern African talent in an annual feast of popular current bands and genres. Sweaty festivals aren’t for all, however. A piano tinkles in the distance as one takes high tea at the colonial-style Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe. On the Zambian side of the Falls, seek out makishi masquerade dancers, if possible, for their act that has made it to UN Intangible Cultural Heritage lists. Traditionally held at the end of an initiation ritual, the makishi masquerade dancers wear masks and costumes, as they take on characters and initiate wild drumming. Even a more touristy glimpse during a boma dinner gives an idea of the power the original wields. Gospel music fans could take in a Sunday service (Zambians are very welcoming). Fine art lovers might also find crossing the border worthwhile to visit the National Art Gallery in Livingstone, a light-filled new building dropped as if by UFO in the bush, with the odd strong show. Check what’s on before committing. How to visit: Bushtracks luxury African safari tours, AWF-led group safaris and Incredible Africa all visit the mighty Victoria Falls.

For more sounds and sights…

Whether you touch down in a capital city or spend time in rural villages, music is part of life. There are countless genres and styles, many of which borrow from the past to create new sounds. Whether it’s bongo flava in Tanzania, sensuous kizombo in Angola or jazz in Cape Town (the International Jazz Festival is deservedly acclaimed), Bushtracks Trip Planners can investigate whether there’s an event that would suit your tastes during your trip.

Lessons from your outdoor classroom

From street art tours to sophisticated high-end art, from local dance to UNESCO World Heritage sites, a luxury African safari tour can be as rich in culture as it is wildlife. The sounds of Africa, and its marvelous art, are waiting to be explored.

The first version of this article was posted on 09 Mar 2020 at 4:29 PM.