Tuesday, November 01, 2011

This is the entrance to the Kanye Kgotla.  Our house is
about a mile from here, at the bottom of the hill.  The Kgotla
is where the traditional king and council meet, where cultural events
are held.

This is the long-awaited day of coronation of the Kgosi Melope II, of the Kanye  region.  Kgosi is translated as chief, although that word has an unpleasant colonial overtone, so I'll stick with Khosi.  King is acceptable, as well  The previous Kgosi died last year, but there have been delays, one being that the eldest son, who ordinarily would have inherited the throne, had been badly injured in a car accident and decided that he could not serve.  Then a leopard had to be killed for the ceremony.  Special dispensation had to be gotten from the government, that strictly limits the killing of what we used to call big game animals.  Once permission was given, the new Kgosi  went out with a team of men armed to carry out the hunt.  On the first attempt, which lasted fifteen days, they were unsuccessful, so they had to carry out a second expedition.  Then the skin had to be prepared.

Volunteer trainee Marjorie Nicholson had a traditonal
dress made for the occasion of the Kgosi's enthronement

President Khama waves at the crowd as he enters the
Kgotla to honor Melope II

What was amazing at the coronation was that in a crowd of several thousand people, including the President and numerous cabinet members, the only weapons were the old rifles of the hunters.  There was a contingent from the army, the army band, there to play the national anthem.  Certainly there were security guards, but they were not obvious and if they had weapons at all, they were concealed.  Far different than what we experienced in Portland, much less what we've seen in Colombia or Mexico or Viet Nam.
A member of the Kgosi's regimental guard, with his hunting
rifle unloaded, watches the performance of a traditional dance

The prime seats, where the President and two previous presidents sat, were inside the Khotla, a traditional meeting place with a big thatched roof held up by wooden columns, and without walls.  But the throne was outside the Kgotla, and our seats were only a few feet from it.  After the Kgosi was draped with the leopard skin, he sat, virtually motionless, for two hours in the hot sun, while dancers danced, singers sang, poets lauded him, and politicians - but not the President, who was actually in attendance not as President but as chief of his own tribe - made speeches.  John couldn't take the direct sun or resist taking pictures, and was able to move around a bit in the crowd.
After the formalities of speeches, dances, poetry and music,
the new Kgosi addresses the people of Kanye

It's typical in the Peace Corps to make connections, such
as Volunteer Trainee Brandon Lawson, in the dark suit,
meeting a woman from his home town who has come to
Botswana to work with youth through the Episcopal Church.

After five hours, the entire crowd of several thousand people left the Kgotla and went to a nearby field where huge white tents were set up to provide lunch for everyone.  Unfortunately the caterers didn't plan very well and ran out of plates.  People, including us, filled cups, glasses, and makeshift plates formed out of the tinfoil covering the chafing dishes.  Still, a good time was had by all.

Women dancing.  They are holding sticks used to thresh
sorghum and the dance is to celebrate the harvest

One of several groups of women who came to sing and
celebrate at the enthronement.


Speedbump said...

We could use some of that heat here; at 8AM, it is about 40F and foggy, with mini-clouds scudding across the relatively warm lake.

I continue to be amazed at the difference between the Africa described by Paul Theroux and the Africa you are experiencing. Folks where you are seem to have really got their act together.

Anton said...

Sounds like you are having great experiences. To see the inauguration of a Khosi is a big event and opportunity. Have you gotten the pronounciation right yet. Lots of Kh's in Africa. Anton