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The Tswana culture is another one of many cultures in South Africa. South Africa is called the Rainbow Nation because of the many cultures and races we have and also because we have 11 official languages! Here is why the Tswana culture makes South Africa great.

The Tswana are part of the Sotho with three clusters, BaSotho - Southern Sotho, MaPedi - Northern Sotho, and BaTswana - Western Sotho, however all three share very similar dialects, beliefs and society structures. They historically lived on the Highveld, with the Basotho. From the mid-1800s, many Sotho chiefdoms in the western Highveld began to regard themselves as part of a larger Tswana group in the colonial Bechuanaland which is now known as Botswana.

Most Sotho people were herders of cattle, goats, and sheep, and cultivators of grains and tobacco. They were skilled craftsmen, renowned for their metalworking, leatherworking, and wood and ivory carving.

In the 16th century, the Tswana settled in what was known as the Western Transvaal. They were divided into two main groups: the Tlhaping and Barolong under Chief Morolong (the metal worker) and the Bafokeng (people of the dew). Oral traditions celebrate Morolong as 'the forger' who 'danced to iron'.


Our very own CEO and Founder, Lily Makaleng and her family are from this tribe! The Barolong Tribe is one of the oldest Sotho-Tswana tribes. They broke away from baUrutshi in an area that is now called South Sudan and continued living side by side with baUrutshi and later Bakoena in an area called Great Lakes region, where they also traded with other Bantu-Swahili groups. Their King, King Tau, is a descendant of King Marolong, the founder of the Barolong Tribe. He reigned around 1240 and adopted Tholo as the Barolong totem. King Tau was a warrior king who reigned around 1660. King Tau fought many battles and made sure his tribe was a very strong kingdom. He had quite a few wives and was blessed with many sons and daughters. The most important four sons are Ratlou, Tshidi, Seleka and Rapulana. The Barolong tribe later used the names of the warrior King Tau's sons as their clan names. The Barolong tribe spread across the regions covering Botswana, through to Transvaal, Northern Cape and Free State (Google Arts and Culture).


Today, there is a Western influence on the Tswana culture, however different aspects of the cultures and traditions are still followed and practiced, such as ritual ceremonies where traditional clothing is still worn. Dancing is a big part of the Tswana ceremonies especially at weddings. The women's attires are bright and colourful dresses. Traditionally, for weddings, the women used to wear skirts and tied materials across their chest and the men the same, however, they only wore clothing from the waist down.


Something that stands out about the Tswana people is their traditional food! Some of the great ones to mention are kgobekgobe which is chopped tribe, morogo which is a traditional spinach, ting which is fermented brown porridge and gemmer, which is a popular traditional ginger drink.


If you find yourself meeting someone from this beautiful, rich culture and would like to impress them with your Tswana knowledge, here are a few phrases that you can use:

-Hello: Dumelang(plural) Dumela(singular)

-My name is: Leina laka ke...

-Can you please help me?: Ke kopa thuso?

-How much?: Ke bo kae?

-Thank you: Ke a leboga

-Goodbye: Salang sentle(plural) Sala sentle(singular)

This is just a teaser of what the Tswana culture is all about. There is so much more to learn about this rich and colourful culture. If you would like to get more insights into our many cultures, contact our Concierge Gurus to set up a virtual experience for you which you can enjoy from wherever you are in the world! You can also book a free concierge session with us and enjoy a lovely virtual tour of Cape Town and what we have to offer.


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