Wednesday

Anthem Verse 1, Stanza 1: Lesotho, fat'se la bo-ntat'a rona

That's Lesotho, land of our fathers, the first verse in our national anthem. Let's take a closer look. The music was composed by Ferdinand-Samuel Laur (1791-1854) and the lyrics were written by François Coillard (1834-1904). The freshly independent Lesotho adopted the tune as its national anthem in 1967, a year after independence from Britain. You can listen to the anthem on the government website.

Those two French dudes who penned it did a pretty good job. I quite like the way it sounds. The mothers, though--there are no mothers? We'll let that slide. We know how men are, don't we? Sometime in the future, though, we're gonna have to tinker with that line so as to include our mothers, who actually do the donkey's work but always get the lesser of everything.

Is Lesotho the land of our fathers? We know that they came from up north somewhere. My own ancestors, Bakhatla or Bakgatla, came from Botswana. I've always heard talk of Ntsoana-Tsatsi, a place where the Basotho supposedly came from. "Ntsoana-Tsatsi" sounds like "From the Sun", so it could mean the East or the North-East.

When I was in Nairobi, Kenya, I met a guy from Zambia: Mukelabai XXXXXXX. What was funny was the fact that he would stare at my brothers and I when we spoke. We became friends and stayed in contact for many years after that, for Mukelabai was a Lozi and could understand almost everything we were saying. The Balozi from Zambia, it turns out, decided to go down South, and eventually formed a big chunk of what is today the Basotho nation. Mukelabai sings the Lesotho national anthem like it was the Zambian national anthem. Why? Because of François Coillard. Remember him? He had adventures all over southern Africa, especially in Barotseland, and must have written the tune in Silozi / Sesotho. The group that stayed around Zambia still sing it, as well as the one that trekked south! So who are we? Do we own this land enough to call it Land of our Fathers?

What about the bushmen (Baroa in Sesotho, Basarwa in Setswana) we found there? Isn't it the land of their fathers more than it is the land of ours? I think we ended up blending with Baroa which, if it's true, gives us some rights to the land and justifies some of that first verse, Lesotho, fat'se la bo-ntat'a rona. Apparently
one important site of early settlement was Nts'oana-Tsatsi near present-day Vrede in the northern Free State. Archaeological investigations have revealed that this area was settled as early as 1350, probably by the Bafokeng clan. These were the pioneers of the Sotho groups who settled much of the Free State and Lesotho. They lived closely with the Baroa as well as with the ancestors of the Baphuthi, who were the first Iron Age peoples to settle by the Caledon River Valley. The northern half of the Free State is the true heartland of Sotho settlement. Lesotho, as we know it today, was the southern frontier of this civilization although the upper portion of the Caledon River Valley was very rich and fertile
The above excerpt also identifies Ntsoana-Tsatsi, which is where my mum had always taught me was the origin of the Basotho people. I guess we do, after all, have some claim to this land and can go ahead and call it Lefat'se la bo-ntat'a rona. Just remember to include the mothers in there sometime in the near future. The next verse is Har'a mafat'se le letle ke lona. I would love to look at that line in your company as well. Let's do that soon.