The month of May is recognised as Africa Month – a time when the continent commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963.
As the country celebrates this with the Department of Arts and Culture hosting a series of events as a build-up to Africa Day on the 25th of this month, a rare cultural spectacle played out in Botshabelo, east of Bloemfontein, on Saturday.
The burial of respected traditional healer and leader, Matebello Matli, revived cultural practices, which are not common sightings in that part of the province. An ensemble of traditional dance performers, chanting traditional healers, cattle and horses turned the streets into a stage for all to view, as her body was led home from the mortuary for the last time.
Bystanders stood in awe, as the body of the traditional healer, who also taught many young girls at initiation schools, was escorted home. From there she was taken to her final resting place.
Mtali was a member of Lekgotla la Basotho – a formation formed with the aim of preserving the traditions and customs of the Basotho nation.
Leader of Lekgotla la Basotho Thabang Sehlaba explains their customs.
“A cow is very important in our culture. We use it to call upon our ancestors and unite families. We will cover the coffin with the skin. When we get married cows are offered as lobola and horses were used to drive the cows. Horses were also used as ambulances to transport the sick,” says Sehlaba.
Traditional healer, Mamokete Mokhetha, is impressed.
“This is the right way to bid farewell to a traditional healer because this is the way she lived,” adds Mokhetha.
The community was mesmerised.
“I’m happy because I’m seeing beautiful things,” says one resident.
“It’s important to be proud with our culture and to show people that you are not afraid of your culture,” says another resident.
But just like with any death to the family – the grief hit hard.