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Botswana’s Culture & History

The Setswana word for the most important social grouping is morafe, meaning the people who give allegiance to a certain chief. There are eight morafes in Botswana: the Bangwato, Bakwena, Bangwaketse, Batawana, Bakgatla, Bamalete, Barolong, and Batlokwa. The chiefs of all eight groupings are from the Tswana ethnic group, but the people of the morafes include other such ethnicities as Kalanga, Kgalagadi, Herero, Mbukushu, Subiya, Yei, and Ndebele, all of which are Bantu. Thus, ethnicity and social groups are not the same. There are also San groups and small minorities of European and Asian descent. English is the official language, but Setswana is the national language. Although Christianity has become familiar to many Batswana, traditional animist beliefs remain important both for respecting ancestors and for rain-making ceremonies that remain important in this desert nation.

The art of Botswana has developed through the production of items for daily use, made by artisans in a way that unifies their utilitarian and spiritual concerns. Wood carvings of great variety are created throughout the country, usually by men. The local mopane wood is very hard and is used for bowls and other household items, as well as for figurines of humans and animals. A soft wood called mokomoto is used for toys. The mythical tokoloshi, a half-man/half-hare creature that, according to legend, is normally invisible to humans, is carved by Batswana men in great detail. The Batswana are more famous for their woven baskets, however. These are produced by women in a style similar to that of many Native Americans. Created in many different shapes and for different uses, the baskets are also adorned with woven designs often representing the personal experiences of the artisan. Sometimes, however, more widely observed phenomena of the natural world may be represented in such formal designs as Tears of the Giraffe, Urine Trail of the Bull, and Forehead of the Zebra.

Some of Botswana’s most ancient cultural landmarks exist in the Tsodilo Hills, lonely rocks that jut abruptly from the plains and are the source of myth, legend, and spiritual significance for the San. In these hills there are more than 3,500 rock paintings, many of which are over 1,000 years old. In the eastern town of Serowe is the Khama III Memorial Museum. Installed in the Red House that was the residence of Leapeetswe Khama, a descendant of Khama III, the museum has exhibits of this revered 19th-century leader, who helped preserve Botswana’s territorial integrity. In the capital, Gaborone, the National Museum and Art Gallery has a large collection of both traditional and modern African art.

For a more detailed overview please see: The World Fact Book Botswana or Wikipedia Botswana and Wikipedia Botswana Related Topics