BaKgatla women ready for Friday's Bojale launch

No Image

It is the meeting of ancient culture and modernisation this week in Mochudi, the Bakgatla capital where more than 1,200 initiates have gathered to revive the traditional initiation practice, Bojale.

The women taking part in the Bojale find themselves living two kinds of lives. During the day they talk on cell phones and work with their computers in their offices. They drive flashy cars dressed in Western fashions.  Once the day is over, activities back home in Mochudi switch back a hundred years. The hectic schedule of 'go rupa' or initiation, begins.

It is a different life completely. In the evening they must forget about those high heeled shoes, and jewelry and remain barefoot throughout the exercise. Their latest French garb is removed, and the initiates remain with only skirts, their upper body exposed to the biting winter cold nights as they walk  and run around the village singing ancient initiation songs.  They run arms folded, heads bowed, in the manner dictated by custom.

Here and there, the women are whipped with the 'dithupa' or canes, by the elders of the 'mophato - regiment' to instil discipline.

The semi-urban village of Mochudi, 40km north of the nation's capital Gaborone, has this week began hosting the centuries old practice again where women must gather at the tribal kraals - morning and night - to sing the folk songs that accompany bojale, to receive lectures on morality before they leave for work or to their homes during the day.

As if to give credence to the recently launched bojale practice, famous women in Botswana such as the recently retired  High Court Judge, Unity Dow, and  the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, Segakweng Tsiane, both members of the Bakgatla tribe, are also taking part in the Bojale, according to the chief coordinator, Mohumagadi Mma Pilane. 

Debswana PR Manager, Amelia Malebane, as well as the Bakgatla queen, the paramount chief Kgafela II's wife, and the queen of the Bakalaka, are also among the more than 1,200 initiates who will be groomed for a month.

The initiates include the young and the elderly this time, as many who did not have the opportunity to go through the practice in the past, did not want to miss this chance.

Even married women are  allowed to participate. But it is taboo for the public to watch.

According to Mma Pilane, the widow of the late Kgosi Pilane, more than 1,200 women in Mochudi alone have so far enrolled for the initiation. She says the number keeps on growing as more Bakgatla women working in different parts of the country are expected to arrive on Friday.

But she also explains that the initiation is taking place in all the 15 Kgatleng villages, not only in Mochudi. "We have been thirsty for this for a long time. People have come in droves. We want to revive the culture which gives us identity," she said in a phone interview from Mochudi.

According to Mma Pilane, on the last Friday of the initiation, the women will walk to a sacred place called Dikgalaope, where they will sing and dance all night. They will walk back to the main Kgotla early in the morning for graduation over a distance that will cover 32 km.

Historian, Dr John Makgala, says the Bojale practice involves tribal rituals.

He says the initiates are taught about domestic matters, marriage life, parenting, agricultural tasks and sex as well as various important taboos.

"Traditionally, female regiments worked in the paramount chief's home and his wives' fields, and also helped in the execution of tribal ceremonies. The mephato also tilled communal ploughing fields, whose produce was kept by the Kgosi for consumption by the morafe when disasters such as drought struck," says Dr Makgala.

Editor's Comment
Welcome to the new look The Monitor

This is a culmination of nine months of work by a dedicated team which comprised journalists, designers and marketers. The repositioning and redesign of The Monitor could not have come at a more appropriate time.The newspaper became of age last year when it turned 21 years old! It was first launched in February 2000 earning it the nick name “The Millennium Newspaper”. Twenty-two years later the media landscape, especially print, has changed...

Have a Story? Send Us a tip
arrow up