The meaning and symbolism of cultural dress practices in Lesotho
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This study investigated the perceptions of the Lesotho College of Education staff and students in the Maseru district, and elderly people from the districts of Quthing and Botha-Bothe on the meaning and symbolism of cultural dress practices in Lesotho. The cultural dress practices with meaning or symbolism have not been extensively interrogated and recorded and are at the verge of extinction. Other studies on Basotho dress have indicated some gaps pointing to a need to determine, preserve and communicate the distinctive nuances attributed to the overall Basotho dress (PhetoMoeti, 2005:90). The study sought to address these gaps regarding the Basotho cultural dress practices. Accessibility of the information currently found in the Sesotho literature was interrogated to widen the scope of knowledge. The aim of this study was to determine knowledge and explore meanings, symbolism and cultural practices of dress of different rites of passage and artefacts for different cultural activities of Basotho and also to identify factors that influenced these cultural practices. This study was premised on the theory of symbolic interactionism developed by George Herbert Mead (1863-1931). In addition, a cultural perspective enabled the understanding of the meanings of cultural dress practices as they were developed over time within different historical contexts of the Basotho people (Kaiser, 1990). The research design for the study was an explanatory sequential mixed method approach in which a quantitative survey was followed by a qualitative phase (Creswell 2014). The target population was the Lesotho College of Education staff and students in the Maseru district and elderly persons in the selected villages of Ha Mosuoe and Ha Belo in Quthing and Botha-Bothe districts respectively. The staff and student populations were 200 and 590, and sample sizes of 132 and 233 at 0.05 confidence interval respectively. The study raised a number of important observations. It showed that there was need to preserve and encourage the conservation of Basotho cultural dress artefacts and practices for future generations to prevent their extinction. Preservation and encouragement of Basotho cultural dress practices was a contribution that will lead to their restoration and appreciation. Consequently, the future generation shall be endowed with respect (hlonipha), sense of self-identity, and patriotism. Adherence to cultural dress practices was retained by a few individuals who were still attached to these practices, placing them in danger of being replaced by modern practices. Even though the respondents showed a high degree of knowledge and understanding of meaning or symbolism of cultural dress practices for the various stages of human development, the existence of these practices was under the threat of Christianity and modernisation because they were no longer observed by everybody any more. Adoption of the changes brought by Christianity and modernisation to Basotho cultural dress practices has resulted in the suppression of indigenous creativity and gradual cultural loss. For Basotho to have accepted that modern dress practices were more decent than their cultural dress practices led to the gradual loss of their heritage. The Basotho blanket has been adopted as the traditional dress for the national identity for Basotho replacing the original cowhide and skin karosses. Seshoeshoe dress has replaced setea as a traditional identity dress for Basotho women. The result of this was the suppression and abdication of indigenous creativity of their cultural dress practices. In order to respond to the issues raised by the study it is recommended that the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture in conjunction with the Education sectors and other stakeholders should develop appropriate policies that will facilitate education for the appreciation of cultural dress practices as part of required knowledge for the Basotho nation.