Visual Symbols of Self: South Sotho Arts and Initiation

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

A kgolokwane, or plaited grass waistband worn by many South Sotho female initiates. Private Collection, 2008. Photo by David M. M. Riep.

Other objects of adornment worn by South Sotho female initiates include dikgolokwane. Dikgolokwane are waistbands made of grass that has been braided into a long rope and coiled to form a thick band that encircles the torso. Dikgolokwane consist of two separate braided cords of grass, and are made in such a manner that there is no visible beginning or end thus protecting the wearer by not allowing evil influences to find entry into the protective circle. While most South Sotho female initiates wear dikgolokwane, one once again finds specific indicators that link the object with one's cultural affiliation. For example, members of many sebôkô wear specific numbers of these rings around their torso, while others will use specific types of grass. In addition, Dikgolokwane worn by Makgolokwe initiates are constructed in a different manner than those of other sebôkô, using a particular four-stranded braid in order to assert their cultural affiliation. Not only does this object cover and encircle the womb, lending protection to the locus of female reproduction, but it also asserts one's cultural past—and future—through visual means.