Sotho Traditional Dresses Biography
The area now called The Kingdom of Lesotho (pronounced le-Soo-too) was originally Basutoland. Both names derive from the common language, Sotho, which was spoken by the many groups which united to form the nation in the early 1800s. Lesotho is often referred to as "The Kingdom in the Sky" or "The Switzerland of southern Africa" because of the stark beauty of its rugged mountainous terrain. It is also described as "The Hostage State" due to the unfortunate situation of being completely surrounded by and dependent upon the Republic of South Africa.
Nowadays the Basotho tribal blanket (Seanamarena) is such a common sight in Lesotho, that tourists tend to assume that it was a local invention. However, its origins can be traced back to the European traders and missionaries as far back as the 1800s. The popularity and assimilation of the blankets by the Basotho people can be traced back to one single incident.
Ceremonial uses for Lesotho blankets
Although blanket styles have been subject to outside influences, they are still to this day closely linked with the milestones of Basotho family life:
- Boys preparing for the circumcision ritual don a special fertility blanket known as a moholobela. After the ceremony he’s considered to have reached manhood, and wears another kind of blanket, called the lekhokolo.
- On the occasion of his wedding, a man wears a motlotlehi, and he presents his wife with a serope when their first child is born.
- Before her wedding day, a woman spends a great deal of time trying on and selecting blankets for her trousseau. Women’s blankets are quite different to men’s – they are designed to be pinned over their bosom whereas the men pin them to the right shoulder.
-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.