Similar Outlook Symbols of the Bafokeng, Bataung and Bakuena lineages: The Case Bapedi, Batswana and Basotho Cultural Representation

Author: Thato Mabolaeng Monyakane (University of South Africa, South Africa)
Speaker: Thato Mabolaeng Monyakane
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


The present study seeks to investigate the similar outlook symbols of the Sotho cultural representation like language and other depictions. At a first clans the Sotho groups have different nationalities of Basotho, Batswana and Bapedi. Classical writers have written about these nationalities separately when explaining their identity. These are Ellenberger (1997) for the Basotho, Breutz (1991) for the Batswana and  Mönnig (1967) for the Bapedi. However, Batswana, Basotho and Bapedi have similar communities in the form of totems like Bafokeng, Bakuena and Bataung lineages across the groups with similar animal veneration. For example, Bafokeng venerate a hare, Bakuena venerate a crocodile and Bataung are represented by a lion across the groups. Furthermore, the groups share a collection of words or langue although they might use such words differently in the formation of sentences. An example is a similar proverb articulated ‘a chief is a chief by people’ in the entire Sotho governance practice. The proverb has the similar collection of words as in the following demonstration: Sesotho: Morena ke Morena ka setjhaba ~ Sepedi: Kgosi ke Kgosi ka morafe ~ Setswana: Kgosi ke Kgosi ka setjhaba. The noun ‘morena’ chief, can be used interchangeably amongst the Basotho and Bapedi. While the Batswana understand it, they prefer to use ‘kgosi’ often. They also have a common saying; Setswana: Sesotho se re ge se bolelwa ~ Sesotho: Sesotho se re ha se bolelwa (both translated, ‘Sesotho says when it is said’) ~ Sepedi and Sesotho: Sesotho ha se tolokwe meaning “Sesotho saying need not be explained” to a native Sotho. All these variations of Sotho saying means ‘Sesotho saying and culture need not be explained’. Here they all openly call their language and culture Sesotho in the aforementioned saying that they co-own. The study will position itself within the theory of ethnicity since its quest of knowledge is understanding the similar identity formation of Sotho regarding the outlook of Bapedi, Basotho and Batswana. The study will use the theory of ethnicity as exemplified by Gellner and Smith. Gellner’s view is that one chooses to belong to a particular culture with people who practice this culture. Gellner complements Smith’s view that there is a continuum of the original culture where the groups are similar in their ways of life and symbolical elements although adapted to their environment and time. The Sotho affected by different geographical areas and chiefdoms formations due to their liking.

Keywords: Similar symbols, Basotho, Bapedi, Batswana culture, ethnicity of ethnicity.