As a young girl in the early 1990s, I met Rejoice, a young Tswana lady, who worked with my mom at her nursery school. Gentle and patient in nature, the children always engaged really well with her. Nearly 20 years later, this very same Rejoice came to work within our lovely team, in my own nursery school.


Rejoice on Heritage Day

We have both grown up. We are now parents ourselves. We share a history. 

A well-dressed colleague, I often tease her that she dresses more smartly for work, than I do for church on a Sunday. To be fair, being a mum to twin three-year-olds, I have reached a time in life when comfort is deemed more important to me than fashion. But, to don heels for the trip home most days, is worth taking one’s hat off for, in anyone’s book of fashion. 

She has a natural talent for language and speaks Tswana, Pedi, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Venda, Afrikaans and English. And she wishes she could speak nine! 

On our Heritage Day on 24 September, she wore a traditional Tswana outfit in blue and white. With clean lines and an intricate shweshwe pattern, it was quite simply, beautiful. 

Here is her enriching story, celebrating her cultural heritage. “My name is Rejoice, and Kebui is my Setswana name. I was born in Gauteng at Coronation Hospital. Six months after I was born, my mother took me home to my grandparents in the North West, to a place called Lehurutshe. My grandparents raised me in a small, rural village, called Mantsie.

Traditional Tswana outfits

 I grew up very shy and reserved, respectfully growing up amongst my grandparents. My grandparents were both Tswana. My grandfather’s name was Busang Sam, and my grandmother’s name was Motlakadibe Mary. 

My parents moved from Bophuthatswana to South Africa on the 27th April 1994, my grandparents having already passed on by that time. We moved from Mantsie to a place called Ntsweletsoku, in Zeerust, where my parents are still living today.

Kgotla meeting place

 As a young child, the most special memories I have about celebrating my culture, are the various traditional games we used to play.     
  • Diketo is a co-ordination game, with ten small stones/marbles. It is usually played by two players. The player throws a stone into the air, and then tries to grab as many stones as possible in the circle before they catch it again with the same hand. 
  • Kgati is an indigenous game know across all African cultures in South Africa. Played with a 3,5 metre rope, it requires agility, fitness, good coordination and rhythm. 
  • Morabaraba is a traditional strategy board game with two players, played in South Africa and Botswana. 
  • Dibeke is a game where we make a ball with plastic bags, wrapping it in pantyhose to make it stronger.                           

Diketo game which Rejoice played as a child

My favourite traditional food is mogodu beef tripe and sour porridge, plus masonja (mopane worms). I often cook them, maybe three to four times a month.   

Being Tswana means so much to me. My tradition provides a great sense of comfort and belonging, I love it because it brings families together, and enables people to reconnect with friends. 

When we lived in the village, we lived in a traditional African house, a round hut built with sand/mud, and the roof was made with a particular grass. 

Masonja mopane worms

On Heritage Day we hold a kgotla at a meeting place. Elderly members of the village meet and discuss community matters, and celebrate with various activities like traditional dances and eating of traditional food. I love this Tswana tradition.           

Our traditional clothing is made from animal skin, and the quantity, as well as the quality, is greatly influenced by social stratification, gender and age. Older boys wear a small flap of skin in front, and nothing else. Young girls wear a fringe of strings (made from skin or bast), and lots of ornaments. Older girls wear a mosese and khiba, and boys wear a tshega.

Cousin Lucky in her bridal makoti outfit

I enjoy wearing shweshwe dresses. I often wear them, especially when I go to church or traditional ceremonies. Some of the traditional customs I love are methods of greetings, shaking hands and bowing at the same time, with your head facing down, to show respect to adults.                   

Tradition reinforces values such as freedom, faith, integrity, good education, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic and the value of being selfless.              

Rejoice’s family moved from Bophutatswana to South Africa on South Africa’s very first democratic election day. A day to remember for two important reasons within her household! A new beginning in so many ways, for so many.

Her Setswana name ‘Kebui’ means ‘to be quiet’, and where this may very well have held some truth as a young girl, nowadays she has the loudest laugh and the richest smile. 

“I am who I am today because Mrs O taught me to be confident, and to smile at our parents. My confidence and character grew, working with her.” 

Tswana males wearing Tshega

We are a testament to those around us, who influence us in some way. This influence is so often from our older generation, who have lived and experienced more of life. This is something to hold dear to one’s heart. 

South Africans are an amazing and diverse array of voices, cultures and traditions. We continually learn from one another, we bond with one another, and we grow together. 

May this never end.

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