Researchers and scholars have been documenting local history for decades to develop innovative digital archives of diverse materials pertinent to the history of the region prior to colonial times.
Some of them have even partnered with the National Museum and University of Botswana in making more research and documenting local artifacts through the Metsemegologolo Project.
The Metsemegologolo Project also known as the digital research and teaching tool for the origins of urbanism in Southern Africa aims to collect and research on Tswana Urbanisation from the 18th century to recent times.
Archaeologist and heritage manager at Botswana National Museum and Monuments, Phillip Segadika told Arts & Culture that the project is a digital humanities project sponsored by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation led by Dr Stefania Merlo.
The Foundation seeks to strengthen, promote and defend the centrality of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing. “The product of the project will be web-based therefore it will be available to the public on websites but also allow the public to comment and add any views and extra material that they may have.
The project has been useful in following on the historical records and identifying actual sites on the ground with the writings.
For instance, the site near Ranaka is actually Tlhorong, which is well recorded in the histories of Bangwaketse of King Makaba.
The same for Makolontwane, which is one of King Moleta’s capitals,” he explained.
He said the project would use photographs and maps to bring the history and documentation process as well as restoration and other processes to researchers and the public by means of websites.
However, he pointed out that in Botswana, the Department of National Museum is already thinking on how to bring that digital information more accessible even to social media and other platforms that may be electronic but not necessarily web based. This is because Internet connectivity and easy access is still a challenge in many parts of the country.
As its pilot project, Metsemegologolo will showcase the Ngwaketse stonewall settlement of Seoke near Lobatse.
He said that is a massive urban situation that required a lot of organisational skill to keep those states together either in peaceful or turbulent times.
For her part, Justine Wintjes from Natal Museum said the project provokes a lively national debate about practices and philosophical reading. She added that it moves beyond the texts and connects with some of their Tswana.
Wintjs also stated that Metsemegologolo focuses on early Tswana urban spaces, landscapes and objects that link to a deeper past.
She said it brings them into a digital space, further explaining that they want to form something that is affordable and sustainable.
“Digital Seoke is exploring a Bangwaketse capital through a digital humanities project. We found stonewalls by the side of Lobatse that were not known by the national museum.
The site uncovers the history of Bangwaketse and tells a story of Kgosi Moleta and Kgosi Makaba. In Botswana, this project is concentrating on those two chiefs who were known to be amicable to other groups in Botswana,” she explained.
She further noted that in Botswana it was easy to conduct research as the country still has names and history from as far back as 200 years ago.
He said the other reason they decided to collaborate with the country was because there is knowledge of places and history that makes the research stronger.
This project is expected to be complete in four years. It is a collaboration between archaelogists, historians, linguists and digital platform experts from the Botswana National Museum, Botswana Society, University of Botswana, Wits University, University of Pretoria, Natal Museum and the Padova University in Italy.