Botswana, a country that is located in the southern region of Africa, has a rich culture that has maintained a strong indigenous identity throughout history. In addition to this strong indigenous culture, the culture of Botswana has also been influenced by its colonial era, during which this country was a colony of the UK. Like other countries around the world, globalization has had a permanent impact on the modern culture of this country as well. The current population of Botswana is recorded at just over 2.25 million individuals. Less than half of these individuals live in the national capital, Gaborone. Nearly 80% of the population of this country identifies as being of Tswana ethnicity. In addition to other minority indigenous groups, small populations of people of European and Indian descent also reside here.
The culture of Botswana includes several factors, including its: social beliefs and customs, religions and festivals, music and dance, literature and arts, and cuisine. This article takes a closer look at each of these components of the culture of Botswana.
Social Beliefs And Customs
The foundation of the culture of Botswana is based around the idea of ubuntu, which is a Setswana word that is meant to express the idea that humans do not exist as individuals. Instead, humans belong to one large, shared community in which each person is connected to everybody else. Other important elements of the society here include communal decision making and displaying respect for the elderly. As part of this communal decision making custom, traditional towns have kgotla. Kgotla are similar to town meeting halls and serve as places where town residents can express their thoughts and opinions about actions that will affect the future of the community.
Although each individual has a specific ethnic identity that has influenced the history of this country, today, the people of Botswana tend to prefer the idea of a shared nationality. In other words, the idea of being a person from Botswana is more important than the idea of specific indigenous affiliation and identity. Additionally, and as previously mentioned, carrying out civil actions in a democratic manner is of utmost importance to the community here.
Religion And Festivals
When Christian missionaries began arriving in the late 19th century to present-day Botswana, tribal chiefs and other leaders converted to this new religion due to the promise of receiving weapons in exchange. As this example was set by the tribal leaders, community members followed suit and also began practicing Christianity. The result of these actions are that today, the majority of the population of this country identifies as a follower of the Christian religion. In fact, around 73% of the population claims to be a practitioner of this religion (66% as Protestants and 7% as Catholics). After Christianity, the second most commonly cited belief is the irreligious at 19%. This category may include atheists and agnostics.
In addition to observing the major Christian holidays as public holidays, the people of Botswana also celebrate a number of other festivals. Three of the largest festivals held in this country include: Maun, Maitisong, and Tjilenje. Each of these is held in a different month, although some of their celebratory activities are similar (such as dancing, games, and traditional food). The goal of the Maun festival is to sell arts and crafts in order to raise money for local schools. The Maitisong festival is the largest event dedicated to the arts in this country and the Tjilenje festival is dedicated to traditional cultural activities (such as traditional games and music performances).
Music And Dance
The traditional music of Botswana reflects the diverse cultural landscape that makes up this country. Most of the folk music, however, does share some common characteristics. The vocals, for example, often incorporate the practice known as call and response in which the second line of the verse is sung in response to the first line. This type of singing is often noted in African music. Other shared characteristics of the music of Botswana include: heavy reliance on stringed instruments, the absence of percussion instruments, and the use of body percussion.
Just as the music and traditions of this country are diverse, so too are the types of dances performed here. Some of the traditional dances here include the: huru, hosana, kalanga, setapa, and san. Each dance serves a particular purpose and is often utilized to accompany oral storytelling. Of these dances, the san, also known as basarwa, is considered the most widely recognized. This dance may be performed in a number of ways, depending on the occasion. It may be used to mark a period of hunting, to celebrate a wedding ceremony, or to carry out a healing ritual for a sick community member.
Literature And Arts
Many of the traditional indigenous groups throughout Botswana have maintained an oral storytelling heritage throughout history and into the present day. In addition to this practice, formal, written literature has been developing and becoming more popular in this country as well. This trend has been seen primarily over the last 40 years or so. In 1980, literary lovers established the Writers Association of Botswana in order to promote and spread information about literature, writing, and reading. Some of the most common writing styles in this country include works of poetry and short stories.
Botswana also has a thriving arts community. In addition to household goods such as pottery and baskets, artists in this country are also creating paintings, leather items, and upcycled art. Many of these modern art products are sold as souvenirs to tourists, which helps support the local economy.
The typical cuisine of Botswana is made up of a variety of traditional recipes that utilize fruits, vegetables, grains, and livestock available locally. One dish in particular is considered unique to this country; it is known as seswaa. Seswaa is prepared by men rather than women to be eaten during important celebrations. The men use a special pot and cook the meat slowly for a number of hours before serving. Another common dish here is called porridge, which may be prepared with maize or sorghum flour that is mixed with hot water until reaching a thick consistency.
About the Author
Amber is a freelance writer, English as a foreign language teacher, and Spanish-English translator. She lives with her husband and 3 cats.
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