A Little Lesotho Love Story. Part 2.
Blankets are intricately woven into the fabric of the Lesotho culture. Every single milestone in a person and community's life is marked with the arrival of a new blanket. From conception to birth to becoming a man; marriage; parenthood, death and national events such as National Tree Planting Day or Independence Day, blankets are used to mark the occasion.
(This man wears a SeanaMarena -Poone or Corn cob design)
Part of the beauty of the Basotho Blankets is not only their beautiful colours and designs, but the stories and symbols that are associated with them. While not all blankets have specific meanings, many blankets are preferred for specific events because of their symbolism.Each tribe within Lesotho has different customs as to which blanket best fits each occasion and the rigidity of this seems to have changed over the years. These days a person more often chooses their blanket for each occasion based on their personal taste.
Historically, a man about to marry may choose a Motlotlehi blanket, and he may present his wife with a Serope as she bears their first child. As a boy goes off to be circumcised and initiated he may wear one blanket, (often a Moholobela) and will return from the mountain a man, in a different blanket. The young man may also indicate his wealth by wearing more than one blanket. The blankets hold an equal importance among women, are often gifts and can form part of the dowry or “bohali” payment when negotiating a marriage.
The designs and patterns took their inspiration from both the local customs and the British Empire. Many symbols such as crowns, feathers, fighter jets and pilots badges can be seen in the Victoria England range which honour the protection from the Queen at the time. They are taken to symbolize bravery, courage, power and conquest. Others represent the animal skins that the blankets replaced and carry great prestige.
(Heart of the King and Badges of the Brave)
The symbol of the corn cob is seen in a few designs in different ranges– most notably the Seanamarena. Corn is an important crop that can help sustain life. A harvest brings health and wealth and as such, blankets depicting corn are known to symbolize fertility, health and prosperity. This is an extremely popular blanket and is often give as a gift at weddings, arrival of a newborn and entry into manhood.
Finally, the type of wool used in the blanket is a mark not only of the quality of the blanket but also reflects the station of that person in society. For example the Victoria England and Seanamarena ranges are made of virgin wool – the first shearing from a lamb. This makes them the most prestigious. Others may be 100% pure wool – also excellent quality, but not quite as prestigious as the virgin wool.
The blankets and the way they are worn can project a lot of information about the wearer....and we'll tell you all about the secret language of blankets in our next post.
and if you missed part 1...click here
See our Basotho Blankets here.