Although Lesotho is a one tribe nation, Basotho are divided into several clans. Each clan has an animal totem that not only guides it but in many respects defines the qualities/characters of members of that clan. Understanding these clans allows not only to celebrate the diversity of the nation and its individuals but provides a basis of respecting people for who they are and how they can contribute in the community.
In my previous posting, I made a reference to the Batlokoa clan, so I will start my discussion with them and then will proceed to discuss a few others.
Batlokoa venerate the wild cat. As I was once told, Batlokoa unlike any other clan reflect so much the animal they venerate. If they are geared for an attack there is no stopping them! They would for example not hesitate to knock down a wall if at all they feel using the door might delay them.
They are also very cheeky (or at least that is what I have been told). It is said Sekonyela, the chief of Batlokoa was destroyed by Moshoeshoe precisely because of this. On many occassions he used to ask Moshoeshoe who he is exactly. He would phrase his question along the lines of: ‘I am Sekonyela son of Mokotjo, who are you? The Bamokoteli in the Bakoena clan are minors, your own father is a twin and at that the youngest! Why should I really bow down to you?’
For the record, although some thought Sekonyela was contemptuous he had a valid point; but this shall be explained shortly under the Bafokeng. The point is Batlokoa are fearless, ruthless and once they have decided you are not worthy of their respect embrace yourself for a good fight for that is as certain as death is to a person.
I am a Motaung (see my about page) so expect a slight bias! The Bataung or rather the lions and lionesses are very gracefully by the mere fact of knowing that they are the true kings and queens of the jungle. As far as history is concerned, no great war that Moshoeshoe fought was without the Bataung in the lead. Although I cannot think of a book that can be used as a reference, I assure all that on many occasions Moshoeshoe had to wait for the Bataung men under chief Moletsane before attacking. This is because Bataung are not just good wariors they are excellent military strategists as well.
As a side note, in this year’ Grahamstown Arts Festival one of the best known Mosotho composer, J.P. Mohapeloa was honoured and guess what clan he is from? Well that can’t be a difficult guess so I shan’t answer! But I shall say he is also the man attributed with the follwing words of praise to Lesotho:
‘Sotho la rona, la Moshoeshoe
Le bopiloe ke eena
Ka merabe ea lichaba
Lesotho le letle’.
Ke antse tsoeleng la phokeng (I was breastfeed by a Mofokeng). Again, excuse the bias if any! Bafokeng are the intellectuals. Like the rabbit, the animal they venerate, Bafokeng are clever and can outsmart you anytime. Bafokeng are also known as fun-loving. This perhaps explains why they gave power to Moshoeshoe with ease. I say they gave their power away because according to the hierarchy of the clans they are at the top and protocol was if any high ranking chief came to your land the reigning chief steps down for that chief. However, Makara chief of the Bafokeng when he went into Moshoeshoe’s land he simply said ‘I understand you dream of being a great chief and I have brought you my people’. (I am being simplistic about it but I thought I should spare you all the details.)
This protocol was the one that Sekonyela wanted Moshoeshoe to observe. However, because Bafokeng in some sense relinguished their power to Moshoeshoe, the interpretation was that Moshoeshoe was a proxy for them. As such, he was holding power for a clan that ranked higher than the Batlokoa.
As a side note, Moshoeshoe was a nephew to the Bafokeng. His maternal uncle Makakane (not sure about his name so I stand to be corrected) played a pivotal role in the transfer of powers. I haven’t really found text to support this but understanding the role of malome (maternal uncle) in Basotho traditions, I have no doubt that the uncle played a pivotal role . Another side note, Moshoeshoe ensured that his most senior wives came from the Bafokeng clan so I believe this helped to legitimise his powers. This is based on my believe that behind every great man is a smart woman. ‘Mosali o ts’oara thipa ka bohaleng’.
Bakuena venerate the crocodile. They are generally regarded to make best business men and politicians. Anybody understanding the link between these two professions indeed should understand the character of Bakuena. To those who might need a hint, let me put it this way, not all deals should be taken as personal, the deals are simply made with the greater good in mind! Moshoeshoe the founder of the Basotho nation was a Mokuena. When I do get around to writing all I know about him please just bear this in mind.
Basia venerate the cat. They are proud, confident and although tame, they are not easily subdued. If you have ever heard of the expression: “you don’t own a cat; a cat owns you!” then you can possibly understand why Basia are not subdued. Another thing about Basia is that they can be self centered. I suppose the tendency to put SELF first might also have to do with the fact that they own and are not owned.
The animal totem for the Bats’oeneng is the monkey. One word comes to mind when it comes to the description of the Bats’oeneng and this is “masene” – ingenious. Sometimes their ingenious is as defined by the expression: “monkey see, monkey do” ! This being the case, one has to remember that looks can be deceiving. Furthermore, that the ability to act doesn’t mean the “action” has been thought through!
Makholokoe are amiable and good-natured people. They venerate the domestic fowl (aka chicken). If you like, you may interpret their cautious behaviour as chicken-like but this doesn’t mean they can’t defend themselves: for they can! They simply may not be able to do so with the finesse of good warriors.
As suggested before, there are many other clans with their own defining qualities, for example, we have Matebele who are good fighters and medicine men. We also have clans such as: Bahlakoana, Batloung, Baphuthi, Barolong, Bakubung, etc
|Basotho Clans Wiki|
|Occasionally, I aim to please: so I have finally decided to create a wiki of sort that includes a limited listing of praise songs of Basotho clans. If you can't see the wiki, you can also click here to access it.
To all who inspired the creation of this wiki, thank you so much for taking time to interact. I realise at some point I lost the courtesy to even acknowledge your comment postings. I apologise and hope at the very least you find your answers in the wiki, which is and will continue to be work in progress.