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South Sotho tribal dance in South Africa
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South Sotho People in Rural South Africa

 

Handwoven baskets

Why did I call the book Hippos, Hotspots, and Homelands?

Since my memoir, Hippos, Hotspots, and Homelands, will only be published towards the end of May, I started reminiscing about why I wrote this book. So many thoughts go through my mind. I did not keep any notes about my experiences, but they were so memorable that I could not very well forget them. The title refers to my adventures with wildlife (Hippos), dealing with crime and student unrest (Hotspots), and living and working in the old South Africa (Homelands.) The homelands were geographical areas demarcated for different tribal groups.

Sotho hat

 

Different Cultures

My first few blogs will introduce you to some of the cultures I encountered. I never dreamed that I would live in an actual homeland, but, yes, I did. It took me a bit of time to learn to click the “Qw’s” in the homeland’s name, QwaQwa, and even longer to remember the town, Puthaditjaba.

There are two independent countries (Swaziland and Lesotho) in South Africa for which South African residents need a passport to enter. Lesotho is home to the Basotho, as was QwaQwa. However, Swaziland and Lesotho were not ‘homelands’ and are still in existence. Despite strong western influences, the Sotho people are still very proud of their cultural heritage. One can visit a traditional Basotho Cultural Village in the QwaQwa National Park today.

It was an amazing experience, getting to know the South Sotho people in QwaQwa. While teaching and living there, I discovered a rich culture and met some wonderful people. Most of us associate Sotho with people wearing conical hats and blankets and riding Basotho ponies in the Lesotho mountains. I did learn about the significance of the blankets in the Bloemfontein National Museum,

Beautiful Basotho blankets 

how they are worn, and how specific patterns are designed for different occasions.

“The Basotho blanket is part of everyday life and it has many different meanings. A woman who is ‘spoken for’ will wear her blanket as a shawl over her shoulders (for much the same reason that a Westerner would wear an engagement ring.) Women with small children will wear their blankets around their hips ready to be used for carrying a child on the back. It is also proper for a woman always to cover her shoulders, especially in the presence of her father-in-law or on public occasions such as funerals and church gatherings.” (National Museum in Bloemfontein.)

The Basotho people have a long history of working in the mines and developed gumboot dancing to a fine art.

Read some thrilling stories about life on the farm in QwaQwa in my upcoming book, Hippos, Hotspots, and Homelands (to be on Kindle and Amazon at the end of May).