Justine and Basotho Men in traditional blankets
Where: Lesotho, Southern Africa
Crafts: Hand woven cotton/wool blend blankets with historic and symbolic designs include Queen Victoria, WWII and Lesotho independence
Uses: Different blankets mark the rites of passages in a Basotho person’s life
The Basotho people traditionally used to dress themselves in capes made from animal skins, but tribal trends changed with time and eventually these garments were replaced by the woven blankets which are still worn in Lesotho today.
Although original blanket designs were influenced by Balinese blankets brought to Lesotho by German traders, the most popular patterns have changed over time, reflecting different influences and shifts in political affiliation. One of the most popular and prized styles is known as the ‘Victoria’, in deference to the British monarch under whose reign the blanket trade flourished.
Lesotho blankets are hand-woven by local women, using a fine mix of 12% cotton and 88% wool from the flocks that graze on the nearby hillsides. They are not only comfortable and durable garments, but are often beautiful works of art. Popular patterns and colours vary from tribe to tribe, though over the years some famous styles and symbols have become established ‘labels’, for example:
– Sandringham blankets were specially designed for use in horse-drawn carriages, intended to keep the traveller warm and dry on a long journey. They were modelled upon those used by Queen Victoria when travelling to Sandringham Castle.
– The royal visit to Basutoland is commemorated in the depiction of the British crown, and aeroplanes and military insignia symbolise the Second World War.
– Crocodiles, torches and the Maluti Mountains represent the country’s new-found freedom, and its new name, Lesotho.
Ceremonial Uses for Lesotho Blankets
Although blanket styles have been subject to outside influences, they still fulfil important ceremonial functions within Basotho society:
– 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.
– Boys preparing for the circumcision ritual don a special fertility blanket known as amoholobela. 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 aserope when their first child is born.
Basotho Tribal Blankets
Blankets for sale and export
By Jess Halliday