A Truly African Hotel

Cultural Stories

As you walk through our hotel, you’ll be surrounded by a diverse and arresting collection of sculptures, artifacts and furniture - each piece is a story woven into the rich and warm African tapestry. Enjoy each individual story about African culture from Zambia, Mali, Cameroon, South Africa and Lesotho that can be found in the hotel. 

InterContinental Johannesburg O.R Tambo Airport – a truly African hotel

Makenge Baskets in the lounge area in front of Concierge desk 

The Makenge tree grows exclusively in the semi-desert sand in the western province of Zambia, where the Lozi people live. For generations the Lozi people have carefully harvested the roots of the Makenge tree to split into fibres for weaving these baskets. The Makenge baskets reflect the heritage of the artisan who creates it as size, shapes and patterns may vary. They are traditionally used to serve Nshima, a thick maize porridge, to store or transport food and often given as wedding presents. 

Dogon Doors in the Quills bar

The Dogon people of Mali are known for their creation of the Dogon Door. These doors have various uses in their culture, firstly as the physical closure to their gran storage building, secondly they are created and  exchanges as gifts for special occasions and thirdly when used as part of architecture, as door or shutter, through the use of symbols they are used to describe the occupation of the person or persons status in the village. They symbolic styling of the doors can vary. A herringbone pattern can often can be often be found running down the sides of the door representing the vibration of light and water. Other themes may include animal figures, village scenes, warriors or horseback, gecko lizards which represent luck, crocodiles which signify power and rows of raised Dogon ancestor figures that all resemble each other. The carvings of ancestors offer protection from sources of harm and serve to keep spirits at bay.

A few Bamileke King stools are dotted around the hotel

The Bamileke tribes are from the highlands of Cameroon and The Bamileke kings sits on the stool during public ceremonies. This is the only time that the stool is used and only the King may make use of it. The design of these stools is distinguished from other African styles by the round shape and criss cross carving pattern, a visual compliment to the earth spider. In the Bamileke culture the earth spider is regarded as a symbol of divine knowledge because it lives underground, the earth spider is viewed as a link between this world and that of the ancestors. Like the spider, the king is considered to be the resolver of conflicts and the centre of sacred knowledge.

Zulu Beer Pots within Quills restaurant

The humble Zulu beer pot known as Ukhamba is an integral part of Zulu culture as ritual beer drinking takes place often during customary Zulu ceremonies. The beer is also used as medium to evoke the ancestors. It is served in a pot and left overnight in the back of the hut for the ancestor. Most Zulu beer pots are blackened after the firing as this is largely for ritualistic purposes as the ancestors are believed to hide in dark places. The decoration and patterns on the pots vary according to region and family.

The Basotho Hat is worn by our Doormen

The hats are known as Basotho hats or traditionally call Mokorotlo. This conical grass hat, is considered part of the national dress of Lesotho, a country surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. The shape of the mokorotlo is said to come from Qiloane, the conical mountains near Thaba Bosiu. In the early 1900s a forerunner of this hat was worn by tribal chiefs, who would sing a combat/praise song known as ‘mokorotlo’ while making their way to the chiefs court. When a court case by two villagers was brought before the king or chief, before giving the verdict the king or chief would take off the hat. The villagers would then know that the verdict was about to be announced. The hat is hand made by men and women alike and it is one of the few hats made from grass. Have you ever seen the Lesotho flag? In the middle of the flag is the picture if the Mokorotlo hat, which shows the importance of the hat to the people of Lesotho. The crown represents ones status and honour.

Should you wish to purchase one of these hats, please contact our Concierge desk.