If I were asked to recommend one and only one cultural event that one must attend in Botswana, I would do so without hesitation. I would recommend Son of the Soil. Like the morning dew, it is at the start of a calendar year; at the end of January to be precise; the time when the kofifi or mofiri dove builds his nest with dry broken sticks. It is a perfect example of what happens when a group of people share a vision to celebrate the cultural diversity of their land, their soil. It isn’t an occasion to mourn a long-gone past and a vanished culture. It isn’t an occasion to look back in despair and wish that things were different. It is a momentous occasion of great joy and celebration of who we are as a people, since we are sons and daughters of this soil.
On this soil lies the most creative souls and bodies of our people. That is why we are sons and daughters of the Soil for this soil has felt the rhythmic feel of the San and the Khoikhoi. Their shuffling feet, their trances, their dances, their wailing song cutting through the cloudless sky with a thousand, perhaps a million stars looking down from the night sky above, have all in different measures chiseled out a path for all of us to follow. We are sons and daughters of the soil. This soil has felt the battle feet of Bangwaketse, Bakgatla, Batshweneng, Bakaa and Bakwena at the curvaceous breast-shaped hills of Dimawe outside Manyana. We are sons and daughters of the soil. A pregnant queen lies amongst the rock rabbits in a cave under the shadow of the bushmen paintings. We are sons and daughters of the soil. A missionary with a beard, a Bible in one hand and medicine in another, points the way forward. We are sons and daughters of the soil. The voice of a young man reverberates across the Bakwena southern hills. Dithubaruba wee! There is a response from the massive crowds that have come to this hallowed spot of the Bakwena. Their call is clear and solid. This is the Bakwena moshate between 1853 and 1863. The gallant Bangwaketse’s feet disturb the serene soil. They have come to liberate this soil from the Bakololo of one sinful Sebetoane who attacked the Bakwena of Moruakgomo. We are sons and daughter of this Soil. The year was 1826, the militant Bangwaketse under motswarelela bogosi, Kgosi Sebego, of the Bangwaketse “with cowhide shields, spears and battle-axes surrounded the village,” and at dawn, their battle cries disturbed the peace of the morning still as they charged into the village with resulting chaos. We are “ultimately the people of this ground, the children of Modimo once protected by the very son of the earth – Tintibane.” We are sons and daughter of this soil; the sons and daughters of Sechele, the famous Ramokonopi, a gifted king who could rally together the various merafe against maburu. We are the sons and daughter of this soil. We are inspired by those who walked this soil before us. We are inspired by Khama the great and Tshekedi whose voice reverberates from Serowe, Pilikwe to Tiger Kloof. We are sons and daughters of this soil.
The crocodiles have come out to play, the monkey and the baboon too in the company of the buffalo and the duiker. We are sons and daughters of the soil. Our soil is soaked by the rolling poetry of Sekokotla Kaboeamodimo in Gangwaketse, Kgomotso Mokane in Gammangwato and Rabojalwa in Mokwena. On this soil of ours are the melodies of Ratsie Setlhako, Speech Madimabe, Stampore and Andries Bok. We are sons and daughters of the soil. We are the sons and daughters of this soil with its witches, wizards and dingaka. We are the sons and daughters, of Malope, Gaseitsiwe, Seepapitso and Bathoen. Not only that, we are the sons and daughters of Kgamanyane, Khama, Sebele, Moilwa, Sekgoma, Kgafela and Nswazwi.
This soil carries stories and tales passed from one generation to another, lacking in precision but rich in language, culture and eternal lessons. From this soil oozes the stories of Mokotedi, of dimo, of Phiri le dinku tsa maburu, and the trickster called mmutle. This soil carries stories of a hardworking people thrust by history into a harsh and an unforgiving land. It narrates a story of how they were able to hew out for themselves a most glorious future out of the rocky and sandy plains.
The spirit of those who walked this soil before resides at Son of the Soil. Held annually in the green and idyllic surroundings of our land where creativity is nourished and celebrated, the event celebrates traditional games that many young adults grew playing such as koi and dibeke. On those hallowed grounds; on those cultural circles, for one weekend only, aspects of Setswana culture, many of which now only remain seared and buried in our memories, one could even say romanticized in our memories, are for that one weekend unearthed and celebrated by sons and daughters of the soil. The food is indigenous, the songs and dances were crafted by the voices of our people in their high moments of great joy and in the great moments of their valleys moments. So this coming weekend, the sons and daughters of the soil will congregate at Serokolwane Lawns to remind each other that the people of this soil are not as divided as it is claimed by some. For though we come from different places, our histories have been crafted through different terrains; though our forefathers have traversed innumerable gorges and caves, we are still sons and daughters of this soil.