The history of the blanket wearing tradition. Your favorite Blanket Has a Rich History. It’s not just a blanket, it’s an heirloom.
The Basotho Blanket originated in 1860 in Lesotho South Africa when King Moshoeshoe received a blanket from a French missionary. Moshoeshoe was delighted with the gift and wore it over his shoulders. This was the beginning of the blanket wearing tradition, and soon after forever replaced the animal skin karosses as the kingdom’s primary attire.
Today, Basotho blankets are the hallmark of the Basotho nation.
When, where, and why the blanket is worn, carry nuances that elude most people who aren’t familiar with the Lesotho region. For example, a new bride would wear a blanket wrapped around her hips so that she would “stay warm”, as warmth typically is associated with fertilization. The symbolism associated with the blanket is far-reaching and encompasses different practices. Here are some more examples of how the Basotho blanket is used as more than just a blanket:
At a baby's birth, the child is wrapped in a special blanket, the same blanket is later used by the mother to carry her child.
As a sign of respect, a woman would cover her shoulders with a blanket, especially in the presence of her father-in-law or on public occasions such as funerals and church gatherings.
As a gesture of union, typically how a Westerner would present an engagement ring to his bride to be, a husband would present his bride with a Basotho wedding blanket.
Gifting your bride: The blanket may also form part of “bohali”, the gifts given to the bride's parents as part of the agreement or union of marriage between families.
Right of passage: When a boy goes through puberty he will wear a special blanket as proof that he has reached manhood in the Basotho culture.
Coronations: Other memorable events are also marked by a blanket, such as during the prestigious coronation of a king, or induction of a chief, but equally as majestic and rich in meaning is the simple gesture of gifting a person with a blanket when about to venture on a long journey.
Death: Even in death, it is customary to wrap the deceased in a blanket as a gesture of warmth.
Even if blanket wearing is not fully understood by the Western world, it is impossible not to take notice of its beautiful symbolism of warmth, security, peace, and pleasantness.
How to Wear Basotho Blanket:
Some tips if you plan to wear your Basotho Blanket:
- An adult male would wear the darker side outwards, and a female the lighter
- Blankets are worn with their stripes always in a vertical position, symbolizing growth and prosperity
- The blanket should be folded at the top, and adjusted to the right size
- The Basotho blanket is worn in all circumstances and the most humble surroundings, as well as in the most important places. The Basotho feel that “appearing in a blanket adds gravity, elegance and a certain symbolism to the event”. It is considered formal wear.
- When manual labor is performed, the blanket is either discarded or doubled up and hung over one shoulder by men, so as not to soil the blanket. Men also fasten the blanket on the right shoulder, leaving the right arm free for movement or action.
Below is the traditional way that Basotho people have worn their blankets for over 140 years