Visual Symbols of Self: South Sotho Arts and Initiation

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

A tejana, which is carried by South Sotho female initiates upon completing lebollô. National Museum in Bloemfontein, South Africa (accession number unknown), 2007. Photo by David M. M. Riep.

As dawn arrives on the following morning, the dithöjane concludes, and the young women prepare for their formal presentation to the community. This includes the slaughter of sheep and goats, which honor the ancestors and petition for their blessing. At approximately mid-day, members of certain sebôkô present themselves wearing the thethana and mose, objects of adornment that were formerly worn by South Sotho adult females, and carrying a woven grass mat called tejana. This object, which is identical to the mosêmê, is adorned with miniature versions of other female arts that have been mastered during this educational process, such as the thethana and setibe, as well as setea, mokorotlo, and thibi. The tejana serves as a visual sign of one's competency in the training of lebollô, and often can be found on display at one's home, much like a diploma.