Thursday, December 20, 2012


Most of the art in Botswana comes from two different peoples. The first being the !Kung peoples, or sometimes called the San or Bushmen. And no, that exclamation point is not a typo. The language of the !Kung people is otherwise known as the “click language,” thought to be one of the oldest and most complex languages in the world. The explanation point signifies where the click is.  Since the !Kung peoples mainly lived in the Kalahari Desert in the areas of Botswana and Namibia, their art tends to be made from objects found in the Kalahari Desert, such as ostrich shells, bones, clay pots, beaded jewelry, and wooden carving (including that of animals). There was evidence of ancient cave drawings that still appear today as vibrant etchings depicting important aspects of life at that time: hunts, animals, ceremonies and recording the stepping stones of life.

The other style of art in Botswana is tied to the Nguni peoples, a style that is similar to many tribes of the southeast regions of Africa. The Nguni peoples created more intricate carvings out of stone, wood, or clay/ceramics. They also specialize in what’s called township art – that is, art that is made from discarded items like bottle caps, cans, pieces of wood, animal skins, etc. They use these materials to make objects that are used in everyday life, like musical instruments, walking sticks, blankets, baskets, etc. While there are many areas between the two types of art in Botswana that are different, there are large commonalities between the two as well, as evident in many aspects of their cultures and societies.

This is made from beaded wire. Pretty cool, huh? Check out more here: .
Bessie Head is often considered one of Botswana’s most revered authors. Originally born in South Africa to a wealthy white woman and a black servant, racial discord in that country led her to eventually leave and move to Botswana. The novel that she is most well-known for is When Rain Clouds Gather, some of which seems was inspired by her own life story in some ways, in my opinion.  The subjects of her novels tend to be about African life, especially about humble beginnings and the struggle of life, as well as religion (raised as a Catholic, she later converted to Hinduism). Although she died in 1986 at the age of 48 from hepatitis, the Bessie Head Heritage Trust and the Bessie Head Literature Awards were established in 2007 in honor of her.

Another writer that I think should not be left out is Unity Dow. She is probably better known as not only as a judge, but the first female judge in Botswana’s High Court. She has long fought for women’s rights and human rights in general.  One of the key cases she was involved in was making the change that the children of a women are legally Batswana. (Tradition holds that nationality comes from the father.)  She has written five books that often deal with the dichotomy of Western life versus traditional life, including relevant topics like AIDS and poverty.

One of the major independent newspapers publishing daily is the Mmegi.  (Another newspaper read in Botswana is Botswana Guardian, but for some reason, I couldn't get the site to come up.) It literally means “The Reporter” in Setswana. It’s an English-language newspaper based out of Gaborone, and they do have an online edition at What gets me when I was browsing their site are the differences in English-language journalistic writing. In the US, unless it’s an op-ed column or a high school paper, the wording is very cut and dry. Theirs use a little more casual words and phrases, making it sound more like a conversation you would hear (well, maybe a little more professionally written than that), rather than a non-emotional dry “just-the-facts-ma’am” style of writing. Barring everything I’ve been taught about journalistic writing, I like it though. But you know me, I tend to gravitate toward less formalities any day. 

Up next: music and dance

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I see that you've used our beaded nguni cow on your blog. We'd appreciate a link back to our website, where we show numerous beaded animals and beaded key chains made by the most talented African bead and wire crafters.