Cultural villages are currently one of the most popular tourism attractions in South Africa, but in spite of their popularity, the villages also face a barrage of criticisms leveled against the manner in which they represent culture and identity, as well as their political economy. Thus, the criticisms leveled against the cultural villages range from that they represent myths instead of culture to that they stage identity and culture in an essentialist and ahistorical manner as though culture is circumscribed and “frozen in time.” In the context of crafting a cohesive South African national identity, the question that arises in light of the above criticism leveled against the cultural villages is that of: To what extent does their representation of culture and identity contribute to the making of an inclusive and cohesive South African national identity? This question is important not only because cultural representations such as the cultural villages of South Africa serve as mirrors of how people imagine themselves and their relationship with others but also because such representation can neither negate nor enhance the idea of constructing a new identity. In this article, I examine both the negative and positive contributions of the cultural village project to the idea of an inclusive and cohesive South Africa. Thus, I deploy the case study of PheZulu Safari Park and Lesedi cultural villages to examine the extent to which the construction of cultural villages enhances and/or negates the idea of a cohesive national identity in South Africa.
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