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The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Visual Symbols of Self: South Sotho Arts and Initiation

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

A South Sotho initiate recites his "praise poem" (dithoko tsa makoloane) while fixing his gaze upon his koto. Free State, South Africa, January 2010. Photo by David M. M. Riep.

The koto is also a visual indicator of one's transition to adulthood, and maintains spiritual significance in Sesotho society. In practical terms the koto is held up while the initiates recite ditoko, with the singer's eyes intently focused upon it. Not only does the koto help new initiates to focus during their oral introduction, but it serves as a visual link to one's ancestors, who are honored through the continuity of the family line.