Botswana's arts and crafts mirror the country's rich cultural diversity
which has been brought about by its many tribes. This section is an outline
of the country's indigenous arts, crafts, music, language, food and beverages.
decorations known as lekgapho on traditional homes are a very
impressive art which has been passed through generations. Although
the art is slowly dying because many citizens are now building concrete
rather than mud houses, a few traditionally decorated houses can still
be seen in some rural areas.
whose ancestors are responsible for the rock paintings found throughout
Botswana, still display natural artistic skills. Some canvas paintings
done by Basarwa artists, who have never been to an art school, show
considerable natural talent which can be developed further.
Botswana's many tribes have brought about a considerable variety of crafts.
The various tribes which originated from neighbouring country's such as
Angola, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia and Zambia brought with them the
various skills which complemented local craft. The following is an outline
of some of the crafts;
The Kalanga tribe which originated from the Wange area of present day
Zimbabwe mined iron (the traditional mining method was to make fire over
the iron brick rocks and to shatter the heated iron by pouring water over
Kalanga iron-mongers forged iron hoes (phangule) and traded them with
the Tswana speaking people in exchange for the latter's livestock.
Various tribes have been making baked clay pots for a number
of generations. The clay pots were used for cooking, water storage,
brewing of traditional beer and for religious ceremonies, amongst
Basket weaving is perhaps the most outstanding and perfected Botswana
craft. The leaves of the Mokolwane palm (Hyphaene petersiana)
are used although there are various other bushes and creepers which
can be used as alternatives.
Moretlwa bark wrapped around grass straws is one of the other
common methods. Various roots and barks are used to give the baskets
the desired colour patterns.
The various basket designs which have been passed from generation
to generation are associated with the nation's traditional lifestyle.
There is, for example, a zig-zag pattern known as " the bull's urine
trail " which describes the patterns caused by the movement of the
bulls sheath whilst it walks and urinates Baskets are used for a variety
of tasks such as grain storage, processing and sifting of pounded
grain (sorghum, millet and maize are the most common) and many others.
Basarwa are amongst the leaders in bead work. Crushed ostrich egg
shells and imported beads are used to make necklace, bangles and other
The prevalence of a wide variety of trees has facilitated the development
of highly impressive wood-craft. Carvings of various animals and birds
tend to dominate the craft. However besides the latter category, a
lot of items carved out of wood are used in the home, although many
have been replaced by imported mass-produced items.
Amongst the traditional wooden household items are mogopo (wooden
bowls), wooden spoons of various sizes, kika (wooden mortar)
and motshe (wooden pestle) Communities which stay near the
rivers also make wooden mekoro (boats) which are very popular with
Traditional musical instruments such as segaba (one stringed
instrument), moropa (drum) and setinkana (hand-piano)
are also partly crafted with wood.
Because of the abundance of the skins of domesticated animals and
wildlife, traditional Botswana society developed various ways of processing
the skins and making clothing, decorated skin blankets and sleeping
mats. The skins are treated with various roots and barks depending
on the intended use.
clothes made traditionally from leather have been replaced by cloth
items, there are still some hunter gatherer communities amongst the
Basarwa (Bushmen) who use leather clothing.
Traditional dancing groups also use leather clothing during their
performances. Exclusive and fashionable leather hand - bags, belts
and other items are also currently factory produced to a high standard
Tapestry, consisting mostly of wall-hangings, depict various uniquely
Botswana scenes such as traditional homes
and wildlife scenes. The various tapestry items are popular with foreign
people of Botswana are very receptive to various forms of traditional,
modern, local and foreign music. Botswana's divergent tribal cultures
have also enriched the country's music. Various energetic and rhythmic
dances are performed with the backing of drums, leg rattles, whistles
and hand clapping. Some Botswana traditional groups have
performed in international festivals and won international acclaim.
Songs that appeal to specific age groups and occasions, such as weddings,
initiation ceremonies, harvest, healing, and entertainment, have been
passed on through generations.
Other forms of music are performed with the backing of the setinkana
(hand piano) the katara (guitar) and segaba (violin). The guitar has
found its way into traditional music, and many songs with the 'guitar
flavour' have been passed from generation to generation just like
segaba music. The music has been sustained by various talented traditional
musicians such as Ratsie Setlhako, Ndona Poifo, George Swabi, Ompone
"Sheleng" Ositile, Andries Bok, Speech Madimabe, and many others.
Older forms of music known as dikoma are still performed by old men
with the backing of various traditional instruments made from the
horn of a kudu, called lepatata, and various bones.
|| Ratsie Setlhako
||(5minutes 18seconds, 1.18MB)
The present generation of Batswana have a rich heritage of poems, proverbs
and folklore that have been passed on by past generations. Many of the
latter were passed by word of mouth since reading and writing are, in
historical terms, newly acquired skills.
The subjects of the poems cover a wide field that includes praises to
the dikgosi and men of outstanding achievement; highlighting the value
of cattle; extolling warriors in past battles and victories; expressing
love, aesthetic appreciation; and showing intimate attachment to previous
experiences. The poetic compositions could also be based on self-praise.
Like poems, the proverbs (diane and diane) have been passed from generation
to generation. Many of the Setswana proverbs contain an instructive moral
lesson as the following examples will show:-
O se tshege yo o oleng, mareledi a sale pele
(Do not laugh at someone who has fallen, there are still slippery slopes
ahead). The moral is, of course, that you must never celebrate someone
else's down-fall because you might be next.
As urbanisation and other factors constantly erode the traditional way
of life, one of the privileges future generations will miss are fire-side
stories told by grand-parents. Known as mainane or dinaane,
these captivating stories were usually related to grand-children by their
grandmothers in the evenings as the family passed their evenings after
the evening meal.
The stories were related by grandparents who in turn had heard them from
their own grandparents and other elderly members of the tribe. Many of
the stories were about giants, mythical animals, like kgogomodumo
(mythical bird), maruarua (whales), the rabbit and its wisdom,
the fox and its cunning tricks, the weak defeating the mighty, and many
It is interesting that the Botswana folklore covers, amongst others, animals
such as whales, which are not found anywhere in the land-locked country.
Could the stories be going back to the times when Botswana had a sea? Were
the mythical birds such as kgogomodumo some kind of dinosaurs? Research
might reveal an interesting link between the stories and other ages.
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