Unique Basotho blankets to be exhibited

A display of traditional blankets for Sotho men and women.

Oliewenhuis Art Museum will display some of the oldest Basotho traditional blankets on record. The exhibition, titled Kobo Tsa Borena or Blankets for Royalty comes from the anthropology collection at the National Museum.

“The anthropology collection of the National Museum houses a large collection of Basotho blankets. Most are part of the Robertson collection, on loan from Neil Robertson’s family. Neil Robertson was a third-generation tradesman in Basotho blankets, the grandson of Charles Hendry Robertson,” says the art museum in a statement.

The unique collection of blankets span from various decades from 1934 and 1988. “The collection includes a Sandringham mountain rug or Mohodu dating back to 1934, a Badges of the Brave blanket honouring those who fought during World War II (1939-1945) as well as a Batho ba Roma blanket made to commemorate Pope John Paul’s visit to Lesotho in 1988.

“The most prestigious blanket in the collection is the Victoria England/Seanamarena or ‘chief’s blanket’. All of the above-mentioned blankets will also form part of the exhibition,” it stated.

The blankets are an example of symbolism used in everyday life in the Sotho culture. One distinctive feature of the blankets is the solid lines that run through the designs, commonly known as “wearing stripes”.

Legend has it that these lines originally resulted from a manufacturing error but went on to become an intrinsic trait of the Basotho blankets. Traditionally the blanket is worn with the stripes in a vertical direction, symbolising growth and prosperity.