of Botswana is characterized by migrations of peoples into the
country from the north and west and particularly from the east
and south, as well as internal movements of groups of people.
The group which eventually emerged as most numerous, and dominant,
were the Batswana. Their pattern of dividing and migrating saw
the formation of numerous Tswana tribes, and they eventually occupied
all areas of the country.
The term "Batswana"
refers to the ethnic group of people who speak the Setswana
language and share the Sotho-Tswana culture. Today,
Batswana, in its contemporary usage, refers to all citizens of
the Republic of Botswana regardless of their ethnic background.
The singular is "Motswana": a citizen of the
country. "Tswana" is used as an adjective - for
example "Tswana state" or "Tswana culture".
modern inhabitants of southern Africa were the Bushman (San)
and the Hottentot (Khoe) peoples. They have lived an
almost unchanged lifestyle in the country since the Middle Stone
characteristics of the Khoe and the San are similar.
Both tend to have light, almost coppery skin color, slanted,
almond-shaped eyes, high cheekbones, thin lips and tufted, tightly
curled hair. Both speak click languages, though there are major
differences between them. Both hunted and collected wild foods
and neither grew crops.
60,000 years ago, the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa were of
one tribe, probably of Khoe/San type. It is believed that the
Bantu-speaking people were an offshoot from the Khoe/San tribe.
This occurred in the tropical rain forests of equatorial Africa
about 10,000 years ago. The Bantu-speaking people gradually
developed darker skin pigmentation and different physical attributes
because of the different environments they eventually occupied.
of the Tswana tribes
about 1,000 years ago, large chiefdoms began to emerge in the
area between Sowa Pan and the Tswapong
Hills. Large settlements developed on hilltops. These people
are known as the "Toutswe", after the first
of their capitals, which was excavated on Toutswemogala Hill.
Soon these communities were eclipsed by the Great Zimbabwe Empire,
which spread its domain over much of eastern Botswana.
AD, peoples in present-day Transvaal began to coalesce into
the linguistic and political groups they form today. This resulted
in the emergence of three main groups: the Bakgalagadi, the
Batswana and the Basotho, each of which had smaller divisions.
Each group lived in small, loosely knit communities, spread
widely over large areas of land. They spoke dialects of the
same language and shared many cultural affinities.
features of the history of the Batswana are fission and fusion.
Groups of people broke off from their parent tribe and moved
to new land, creating a new tribe and absorbing or subjugating
the people they found there. This is how a single group of Batswana
living in the Magaliesberg Mountains in northern Transvaal evolved
into the numerous Tswana tribes, which exist today.
century further movements and split-ups of the Batswana resulted
in the Tswana tribes which exist today: Bakhurutshe, Bangwato,
Bakwena, Bangwaketse, Bakgatla, Batlhokwa, Barolong, Batlhaping
and, much later, the Batawana.
farming inhabitants of Botswana - the Bakgalagadi - also split
into several groups, namely the Bakgwateng, Babolaongwe, Bangologa,
Baphaleng, Bashaga and many smaller groups. This then was how
the Tswana tribes came to be living in Botswana as they were
until about 200 years ago.
wars were a devastating wave of tribal wars that swept across
Botswana and much of southern Africa in the early 1800s.
By the early
19th century, populations in southern Africa had expanded to
such a point that most fertile land was occupied. During the
1700s, the slave and ivory trades increased rapidly in southeastern
Africa - minor kings were attacking their neighbours and selling
their captives to slave traders. Along the Orange River, white
bandits began to terrorize people living in the east.
(Bantu-speaking peoples including the Zulus and Xhosas) began
to form themselves into stronger units to resist these pressures.
In 1816 King Shaka seized control of the Zulu chiefdom, and,
by forcefully incorporating other smaller tribes, rapidly formed
a powerful, war-like nation. Conquered peoples, began to move
northwestwards in vast numbers (80,000 - 100,000) destroying
everything in their path.
the end of the Difaqane wars, tribes slowly began to re-establish
themselves. The chiefs, in their efforts to reconstruct, began
to exchange ivory and skins for guns with European, Griqua and
Rolong traders, who began to infiltrate the African interior
at that time.
the 19th century numerous missionary societies were formed in
Europe and America to send out proselytizers around the world.
The London Missionary Society was one of the first to
preach amongst the Batswana. It set up a mission station at
Kuruman (near present-day Vryburg in South Africa) in 1816.
The untiring Robert Moffat headed the station for 50 years.
Dr. David Livingstone arrived in 1841, worked out of
Kuruman for about two years, and then married Moffat's daughter,
Mary. Though much more interested in exploration than missionary
work, and later much more involved in the abolition of the slave
trade, Livingstone set up a mission station at Kolobeng amongst
Christianity very gradually spread to the interior. Missionaries
settled amongst the people, often at the invitation of the chiefs
who wanted guns and knew that the presence of missionaries encouraged
the traders. By 1880 every major village of every tribe in Botswana
had a resident missionary and their influence had become a permanent
feature of life.
worked through the chief, recognizing that the chief's conversion
was the key to the rest of the tribe. Chiefs' responses varied
- from Khama's (of the Bangwato) wholehearted embrace of the
faith, to Sekgoma Letsholathebe's (of the Batawana) outright
rejection, which he claimed was in defense of his culture.
is largely the culture of the Batswana that has dominated that
of other minority groups. This is particularly evident with
regard to cattle ownership. Cattle, the traditional Tswana source
of wealth and status, are now desired by most, if not all groups
of people in Botswana. But this exchange of cultural values
has not been a one-way affair: minority groups have influenced
and contributed to the dominant culture in numerous ways - in
Ngamiland, for example, the Bayei fishing methods were adopted
by the ruling Batawana.
have seen the introduction of western culture in the form of
western business, technology, consumer goods, tourism and the
media. There is a rather circuitous route, which all this takes
to get to Botswana. South Africa, heavily influenced by America,
Europe and Japan, acquires the latest goods and media items
from these countries first; Botswana, in turn, imports nearly
all commodities from South Africa. Botswana can well afford
to buy in such goods, but personal wealth on the scale that
exists for the elite few in Botswana is a new phenomenon.
the urban areas has been most affected by western culture and
increasing modernity. In the rural areas many traditions persist
and ways of life differ from region to region. Some of the more
obvious physical aspects of the different cultures have disappeared
(such as traditional clothing, arts and crafts, most ritual
ceremonies and some tools and utensils). Others remain important,
however, such as cattle ownership, music and dance and
the consultation of traditional healers.
which have come so rapidly to Botswana, have had their advantages
and disadvantages. Better health and education facilities have
been provided and increased prosperity has improved the standard
of living for some. However, there is a steadily widening gap
between the rich and the poor.
is the aspect of culture, which has perhaps best survived the
onslaught of western influences in Botswana. Both traditional
and modern music of numerous ethnic groups from southern Africa
and sub-Saharan Africa are heard nearly everywhere you go -
in shops, malls, houses, schools, cars, combis, trains, taxis
and bars. Music, dance and singing are an integral part of everyday
activities and modern-day ceremonies such as weddings and even
have incorporated their traditional music into church singing.
The result is some of the most stirring, soulful music on earth.
There are a lot of church choirs, in both urban and rural areas.
are taught traditional music and dance at primary school. Even
in secondary schools, morning assembly sometimes begin with
singing. Teacher training colleges often have their own dance
troupes, some of which have performed overseas. Traditional
dance competitions for schools are periodically held, usually
in larger towns and villages, and many schools from around the
country participate. These school groups also perform for the
public on public holidays - in villages, town halls and community
centres. The dancers, wearing traditional costumes of skins
and beaded jewellery, move exuberantly and energetically. The
music is happy, infectious, and full of feeling.
religions were primarily cults. The supreme being and creator
was known as Modimo. Religious rites included the bogwera and
bojale (male and female initiation ceremonies) and gofethla
pula or rain-making rites.
is the most prevailing belief system in Botswana, with well
over 60% of the population. It was brought into Botswana by
Livingstone in the middle 19th century who converted Kgosi
Sechele I (Chief of Bakwena) to Christianity. The main denominations
are - Roman Catholic, Anglican, Zion, Lutheran and Methodist