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The Symbolism of the Basotho Blankets and some Basotho Culture

Travel and Vacations in Lesotho - Explore the Basotho Culture

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Easy Africa Overland 2011
Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa
Tour starts Lilongwe, Malawi - 15th August 2011

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The Safari Guys do overland expeditions throughout Southern Africa. The tours are done to order based on the itineraries on this website. Accommodation is a mixture of lodges, small hotels and camping. The Safari Guys do all the arrangements, bookings, catering and supply all the necessary vehicles and camping equipment.

 

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Basotho Tribal Blankets and bit about Basotho Culture

Chosen for their warmth, timeless durability and rich traditional designs

The Basotho Tribal Blanket is unique to the Kingdom of Lesotho. The first of these famous blankets was produced not long after the founding of the Basotho nation in 1833. In 1835 the first traders came to what was then known as Basotholand and supplied a very crude form of badly woven blankets to replace the skin kaross which was traditionally worn by the Basotho. With the growth of the nation it became physically and financially impossible for everyone to obtain and afford a kaross. In 1876 Donald Fraser came to Lesotho from the spinning and weaving area of England and was not happy to find the shoddy blankets supplied to the Basotho. He and King Moshoeshoe discussed the problem and introduced a better type of blanket that resembled the skin kaross.

  Seanamarena/ Seana Marena Basotho Blanket - Lesotho
Fraser's Setate Basotho BlanketTo be sure that you purchase the genuine article make certain that the "Royal Quality" label appears on the item in which you are interested. To this day the blankets are still made as before of 88% wool and 12% cotton (size 155cm x 165cm).
Not every blanket has a specific meaning. The Basotho became attached to certain familiar designs and styles to which they gave their own names, such as Sutha ke fete (Give way that I may pass) or Serope sa motsoetse (the thigh of a woman in labour). Other names which have developed over the years are Sefate (tree), Morena (Chief), Nkwe (Leopard/Tiger), Slea o butsoe (leave the door open) and Se Secha (the new one).

The Sefate Poone and Seana Marena Poone blankets are available in a range of different colour combinations: black/slate, yellow/black, brown/black, red/black, turquoise/black, and green/black.

Seana Marena Poone means "we have the honor to swear by the Chief".

BASOTHO TRIBAL BLANKETS

Tribal blankets are today still worn by the Basotho people living in Lesotho, situated in Southern Africa. Lesotho is the only nation South of the Sahara that illustrates the culture of an entire nation through such an individualistic item as the tribal blanket. These blankets have evolved over many years to the figured blankets seen today.

Military Insignia Design - Badges of the Brave  

Blanket fashions

Blanket fashions today vary from district to district and from tribe to tribe. Patterns and colors that are popular in one district would remain unsold in another. Apart from blankets under the VICTORIA label (including designs such as the Seana Marena, Spitfire and Badges of the Brave), there are other famous names such as the SANDRINGHAM, the MOHOLOBELA (the fertility blanket), The MOTLOTLEHI wedding blanket, SEROPE SA MOTSOETSE (the thigh of a woman in labor), LEKUNUTU (the secret), SEFATE, MAGICIAN and MATLAMA.

Basotho Family Life

The various blankets are still to this day closely linked with the milestones of Basotho family life. When a boy goes into retreat to prepare for his circumcision, he wears a special blanket called the MOHOLOBELA (the fertility blanket). After the ceremony he is entitled to another blanket, called the LEKHOKOLO, as proof that he has reached manhood. Next he may need the MOTLOTLEHI (wedding blanket). And lastly, he will want a SEROPE, presented to his first wife on the birth of their first child. There are also special occasions in the Basotho’s national life where blankets symbolize the particular event. For instance, on Independence Day or National Tree Planting Day, a man of substance may wear not one but three blankets, namely the Torch blanket, a Victoria and a Sandringham.

New Designs

Any new design is well advised to include a crown, an orb or Prince of Wales feathers. The Basotho also cherishes crocodiles, but no other animal is acceptable to the Basotho blanket purchaser. The mealie (maize) is a symbol of fertility, although an earlier blanket design that featured the mealie in its sheath was inexplicably unsaleable. The cabbage leaf symbolizes prosperity by giving the image of luxuriant growth.

The SANDRINGHAM blanket was originally manufactured as a coaching blanket in the days of horse-drawn carriages. Woven on carpet looms with a pile on each side, the idea being that the pile would act as a filter holding mud on the surface and allowing a slight penetration of clean water. The pile on the opposite of the warp remained dry. The name Sandringham originates from the blankets used by Queen Victoria on coach journeys to Sandringham Castle.

  Maize Design
Prince of Wales Feathers Design

The MOTLOTLEHI wedding blanket displays the Wheatsheaf and Fleece, products of Lesotho and the Crocodile, the emblem of the Bakoena, the most powerful of the tribes who founded the Basotho nation.

NKWE SIBOKO (Leopard emblem) of the Batlokoa Sotho tribe – ferocious warrior tribe of the Harrismith, Free State district. Massacred by Mpangazita’s Hlubi warriors in 1818, they rallied under Chieftainess Mantatisi, who led them on a rampage of destruction through the Free State, Southern Transvaal, Lesotho and Botswana.

  Maize Design Detail Maize Design Detail


SEFATE SIBOKO (Tree emblem) of the Secondary Royal House of the Batlokoa tribe. Ruins of the kraals of the ‘Sefate’ and senior ‘Nkwe’ Leopard tribes exist near Harrismith, Free State. The long lost burial ground of the Botlokoa tribe was rediscovered in 1962 by Chief Mota, a descendant of the Royal House, through a legend relating to an ancient wild olive tree, over 360 years old, which still to this day thrives near the site of the kraal.

 

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