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Debswana assists Basarwa reversion to indigenous knowledge

KOKETSO KGOBOGE
Making ornaments, Buhu women.PIC: KOKETSO KGOBOGE
LETLHAKANE: In this adverse era of escalating rates of unemployment, Basarwa of Buhu settlement near Letlhakane are proud to retrace their steps back to and benefit from their indigenous knowledge.

The Basarwa of Buhu displayed passion and commitment at the ongoing weeklong educational workshop organised by Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines (OLDM) in Letlhakane on Wednesday. 

OLDM has partnered with Ghanzi Craft Trust.  The workshop looks to impart knowledge of using community-based natural resources, quality control, standards and packaging amongst others. 

Over 40 Basarwa, both youthful and elderly had attended the workshop at Seaseole Primary School. 

A 63-year-old woodcarver Gorongwang Kitso said he inherited woodwork skills from his great-grandparents, but later traded his artistry for menial jobs around the village. 

He stated that as the years of working in construction companies reached the twilight he retraced his footsteps to woodwork. He said he had been benefiting fairly from the trade, and he learnt late of the potential of his trade. 

“I want to learn ways that can improve my products to make better sales. I wasted years labouring for construction companies and took my godsent trade lightly.  It has been rewarding since I started and my wish is to pass it to my children,” he noted. 

Othusitse Majweng, 39, said her grandmother raised her with proceeds from sales of indigenous fruits and traditional ornaments. Majweng plies her trade by selling airtime at the village bus rank. She aspires to learn weaving and ornaments making. 

“I am here to learn something that I could combine with my airtime business for extra profits.  I heard about this workshop from my village ward and joined,” she said. 

She added: “I completed my first bracelet, and the instructor loved it.  Making ornaments has always been at the back of my head, I have had a lot of inspiration that could help me make contemporary things using natural resources and I am confident that people are going to adore my products”. 

An elderly Momo Ramontsho, born in Makolwane, was of the view that the workshop would help her fellow Basarwa to take interest in the culture she feels is slowly diminishing into thin air. 

She said

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she attended the workshop not only to learn but also to share her weaving skills and encourage the younger generation to hold onto the culture. 

She said youths are frustrated at the lack of employment opportunities and have turned into rascals yet they have skills and talents. She is also of the view that all Basarwa are blessed with the knowledge of producing sellable products out of cheap wild materials. 

“I know how to make diroto (baskets), my late parents used to make them and trade them for maize to feed the family.  They taught us and things went fine.  I am here to learn and help others so that they could make use of the indigenous knowledge to benefit their families,” she said. 

The project director, Bontle Maruatona, the corporate affairs manager at OLDM said they had identified the tradition and culture of Basarwa as economically viable and as a result could be of benefit to the natives when well packaged. 

Over and above making profits, she said, Basarwa’s rich culture has been swallowed by westernisation and felt it was paramount that they assist in preserving the culture naturally through its inhabitants. 

She said it was therefore apparent to bring on board the Ghanzi Craft Trust that is wholly owned by fellow Basarwa to lead the workshop. Maruatona said the workshop was the first and others will follow. 

“The idea is to support this group until they are productive. Participants would go through a number of workshops until they reach the point of maybe forming a cooperative, a trust or until they can produce and make profit out of their individual businesses,” she said. 

Amongst others invited at the workshop were the Department of Wildlife and National Parks and the Department of Forestry to teach attendants regulations of wild animals and plants they should be wary of when hunting for and gathering their raw materials.



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