Visual Symbols of Self: South Sotho Arts and Initiation

by David M. M. Riep
Colorado State University, Fort Collins

A Makgolokwe initiate wears the culture-specific accouterments linked with her sebôkô. Free State, South Africa, December 2009. Photo by David M. M. Riep.

While the lesira is worn by female members of many South Sotho sebôkô, initiates belonging to the Makgolokwe sebôkô wear different accouterments in order to assert their cultural identity. Such objects include a skin head-covering, kôrôpô, made from the fur of the pela, or rock hyrax, as well as a dried plant, thibi, worn on the head and a stringed veil called a seyala, which is made from chicken feathers. Not only does this differentiate Makgolokwe initiates from members of other sebôkô, but the unique objects of adornment contain materials that are symbolic of this particular culture. In this case, the plant Bophane districhia is a floral symbol of the Makgolokwe, and is used in place of the mosêmê grass (Eyperus marginature), which is used in creating lesira, and is a floral symbol of other South Sotho sebôkô.