Memories of Lesotho

Originally posted on

By Khahliso Matela

Watching an acrobatically leaping mountain eagle from the crest of yet another wetland on the Lesotho Highlands, I can swear Mokhotlong is where my insides were born. It has been over a year since that formidable confrontation with this massive land-mass, I was filming then; and the restless wonder that combed through my hair still remains.

Here, the sun slumbers in the snow, folding its glowing tentacles abound the steamy cliffs and slim creeks slithering in gaping valleys where herd-boys contemplate silence.

Trekking the steep slopes that keep elders’ sinews rejuvenated more than the young, all seemed like a dream. The euphoria mingled with nostalgia of a native born, became my fuel each dawn to wake and marshal my bones towards the picturesque weight of a nation’s story protruding with each mountain tip.

For my ancestors, I felt this journey to be a testament that they have honoured my blood with a secret vantage point that overlooks the pulchritude that only the Gods would gallantly call their own. And for that I forever am grateful and indebted to the land where my umbilical card was buried.

The majestic ‘Maletsunyane waterfall in Semonkong breathtakingly plummets into ancient crevices carved into rock and earth by forces beyond any human imagination. From the air, it takes the shape of a whisper that falls into pastured ear; yet the roar could be near deafening at first.

And these waters spilled like guts from incredible heights, snake into valleys forming cool streams and raging rivers, the mountain rocks glistening as though with sweat. Motley landscapes carry giant boulders sandy and grey, lonesome hills among crafted fields and grasslands stretching upon loins of aged mountains.

Lesotho is a loom upon which tapestries of a myriad colourful people, attitudes and linguistic variations, which carry a story of an ever evolving culture, are indeed woven. Through its people my history art unravelled, and through its young a robust future reclaimed.

I met improvised families in derelict villages fending through the earth while torched by bitter thirst; strong women who knew life’s yoke and toiled with eyes smiling at any stranger. I befriended shepherds who broke bread about mekhoaphong le metebong; old men who spoke in meek idioms, and winds that translated mysteries in their parables.

The misty Senqu at dawn, slight ponds in the distance, as we creep through rude roads and the spillage of villages with smoking rooftops. Sublime visages in MetolongTebellong with its gothic colossal mountains under a sky veiled by threats of a storm – all in mind. Days wait for no man, and rain comes at its own time.

I, recalling smells of friends who crammed with me into the truck each dawn for an entire month, through small towns abuzz with toiling aims of progress, sleep calmly each night knowing I was privileged to lay naked eyes on this land, as most would never see in their lifetimes.

A nation that still faces a plethora of social and economic challenges, Lesotho is nevertheless emerging as the paragon of self-sustaining development.

Its population has exhibited an astounding dedication to building sovereignty that has constantly been looted by petulant bigots and trampled by megalomaniac governance.

But having had opportunities to interview various policy makers within the country, I feel a magical re-incarnation of this kingdom is yet to astonish the world. There is a despondence I sensed among many rural youths still village bound; seeing a world evolve without acting their parts in the play called modernity. It left me evaluating the bias of progress which neglects the rural for the urban, while the wealth of any urbanity is sapped from the rural bark that is constantly being castrated.

There are tinges of a dwindling culture still tucked up these gigantic mountains, one that would make the diabolical pace of present day humdrum life seem like a collective suicide. In those hidden caves, some spirit calls for a reawakening of mystical wisdom earth upon these mountains by ancestors who still hum a song meant to sober the living.

Nonetheless, without purporting a romanticism of poverty, stalling their rage are the young men maimed by landfalls beneath South African mines now scattered about pastures unbeknown, able solely to become herd-boys. Shattered promises and dreams that forced villages into ruins, broken walls and kraals are now left in the hands of an ambitious coalition government that has managed to perform expertly to surmount enormous socio-political odds, with scarce financial aid packages but armed with a repatriating vibrant and young skilled labour.

But once re-familiarised with Basotho Music and dance, feeling the rhythm of a pulsating city with each breath; Maseru proved that there exists a rekindled flame that will soon illuminate Southern Africa. It burns resolutely in the souls of a proud people whose eyes glow with embers of hope in adverse times. One might say, their resilience truly can make melody out of malady.



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