Visual Symbols of Self: South Sotho Arts and Initiation
by David M. M. Riep
Colorado State University, Fort Collins
Just as young South Sotho men rely on the visual arts as expressions of social status and identity, young women likewise maintain specific visual symbols throughout the initiation process. Historically, the primary purpose of initiation for young women was to instruct them in proper South Sotho female roles, including domestic and agricultural activities, sex, behavior towards their male counterparts, and to prepare them for marriage and motherhood. While lebollô is no longer viewed as a compulsory activity in contemporary Sesotho society, it formerly placed great social pressure upon South Sotho female youth, as it was believed that the uninitiated would become barren and unattractive. Thus, a young woman would emerge from this process not only with a new adult identity, but as a fertile, eligible adult woman in South Sotho society.