Amazing stories of the Batho people


Galoome Shopane

A cultural initiative between the National Museum in Bloemfontein and the University of Thomas More in Belgium has come to life at the National Museum. The Batho Project, as it is known, introduces those who are willing to learn to discover the Bloemfontein of yesteryears.  The Batho Project is an exhibition that looks at the oldest township in Bloemfontein and is one of the biggest in South Africa. The collection of stories and memories of Batho began in 2007 and the exhibition will start running as a permanent feature at the National Museum in December 2013.

The residents of Batho who tell tales of life in Batho range from 55 to 92 years old. These residents were born and bred in the township and tell stories of their childhood days with clear memory, pride, pain and joy. One memory filled with pride and happiness is that of the 1947 British Royal visit to the township. The elders remember the songs they sang and even the clothes they wore during their performance for the British Queen who later became the Queen Mother.  The 95-year-old township has a lot of history and also prides itself on being the host of one of South Africa’s historical sites, the Maphikela House. Maphikela House is where the first founding members of the African National Congress had their first meeting and one of the founding members of the ANC, Thomas Maphikela, is the owner of the house.

The residents of Batho come from different cultures and speak different languages, but they have managed to make a unit from their diversity. There are Batswana, Amaxhosa, Coloureds and Basotho living in the township of Batho (which means people), and have become a melting pot of a vibrant township. One of the many people who interviewed the elders of Batho, Patrick Letsatsi, says the oral history project on Batho showed him how united Batho residents were. Even with their different languages they were still one community on the other side of the railway road.