Saturday, August 5, 2017

African Harvest Festivals: Botswana's Letlhafula Festival (information & videos)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents information about Letlhafula, a traditional annual Batswana festival. Five YouTube videos of this festival are also included in this post. Those videos showcase traditional dancing and singing performances and audience participation dancing during various Letlhafula festivals. In addition this post also showcases a video of an original Batswana song and a video of a Batswana Hip Hop song about this festival.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the performers who are featured in these videos. In addition. thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.
This post is part of pancocojams' ongoing series on African Harvest Festivals. Click that tag below to find other posts in this series.

TJ DEMA ...this too, is Africa(n). Friday, June 7, 2013
"LETLHAFULA: A movable feast from Gaborone to Germany

Further, German settlers to the Eastern Cape in 1858 often elected to wear the blue print that was widely available as a trade cloth and echoed the Blaudruk that they were familiar with in Germany," History of Shweshwe, Da Gama textiles.

And this ladies and gentlemen is one plausible explanation of why the Botswana national dress for women is made out of a fabric often colloquially referred to as German print. I’m writing about this because I’m in Berlin and it took twenty-four hours from my door in Gaborone to the hotel door in Potsdamer. So of course my first thought was how and why in the world we chose this particular fabric to don for our cultural ceremonies all the way in Southern Africa. Of course I know from my primary school social studies class that the Germans have a history with Namibia, which borders Botswana to the west, but I wondered what the connection might be between my temporary digs and back home.

Just last weekend I attended a food and culture festival in Botswana, known as Letlhafula. Letlhafula is a Setswana word meaning ‘harvest’ and can be taken to mean a/the time of harvest


The festival is held every May probably because our winter begins around then and ends in July - give or take a couple of weeks on either end. This is arguably the best time to reap what we have sown before winter well and truly kicks in. I am what could be called an unreliable narrator because I’ve spent my entire life in the city and the seasons pass differently in urban spaces, more as a reference to fashion than food. The only quality time in a village setting that I got for eighteen years was 3 weeks every Christmas holiday, not enough time to properly pick up what a number of my village-raised peers know backwards. What I do know is this, that the way we traditionally marked the harvest time was by feasting on all of nature’s bounty (sounds like an ad for frozen veggies) and so this festival is a kind of urbanized celebration of that agrarian practice.


Setswana traditional cuisine is healthy, I suppose our idea of dessert would be fruit. The food is filling, often protein heavy but prepared in a way that hasn’t for whatever reason given the entire population gout given how much of it we eat. As one of our top 3 Miss Botswana beauty contestants recently said, - Botswana has more cows than people. In fact over 50% of the country's households own cattle.

Back at the festival, there is a sizable stage where a number of artists including traditional instrumentalists, dancers, poets reciting in Setswana and comedians regale the masses with words and sound and such stuff. All of this served in the great outdoors, well in a courtyard with tables over-layed with the leteise which my elderly aunts still call *Jeremane (a kind of lehnwort, although probably more of an adaptation rather than a direct loan of the word Germany). It is basically indigo fabric but these days it is available in a myriad of colors not just the original blue that our mothers always wear to weddings and cultural ceremonies such as the sending off of a bride to her in-laws the day after she is wed.

*Je – as in jerry
re – as in renegade
mane – as in, well as in mah- nay"

Example #1: Orange Letlhafula.mp4

Gazette Lapologa, Published on May 30, 2011

Letlhafula is an annual Food & Dance Festival hosted by Botswanacraft on the last Saturday in May. Based on Traditions of Botswana the festival offers a wide variety of local foods cooked in large traditional pots, entertainment is provided with traditional dancing and music.
The "Orange" in this title and in several other banners at Letlhafula festivals is the name of "Orange Botswana", an international telecommunications company that is the corporate sponsor for these festivals.
"Orange Botswana (PTY) Ltd. provides mobile communications services in Europe. It offers converged voice, roaming, coverage, mobile downloads, mobile plan, broadband, fixed line, Internet, data, and mobile services. The company sells its products and services through retailers and distributors in France, Romania, Switzerland, Slovakia, Spain, the Caribbean, and Africa. Orange Botswana (PTY) Ltd. was formerly known as Vista Cellular (PTY) Ltd. and changed its name in March 2003. The company was founded in 1998 and is based in Gaberones, Botswana. Orange Botswana (PTY) Ltd. operates as a subsidiary of Orange."
Hat tip to the editor of for this information that was included below one of the photos that was featured in that article.

I mistakenly thought that "Orange Letlhafula" was the name of the festival because I wasn't familiar with the corporate name "Orange", and because I saw all of those video titles and stage banners with those words.

Example #2: Orange Letlhafula.mp4

Gazette Lapologa Published on May 30, 2011

Letlhafula is an annual Food & Dance Festival hosted by Botswanacraft on the last Saturday in May. Based on Traditions of Botswana the festival offers a wide variety of local foods cooked in large traditional pots, entertainment is provided with traditional dancing and music.
Here's the only comment to date that is posted in this video's discussion thread:
avidave, 2011
"Eish , if u could only post longer videos , Ke dule pelo gore ke utlwe ke gopola Botswana,havent seen the wonderful performance live in a very long time
Google translate gave this Sesotho to English translation for the words "Ke dule pelo gore ke utlwe ke gopola" = "I'm sorry that I can remember it".

Perhaps a better English translation would have been something like "Remembering this makes me sad.”
Used in South African English and Afrikaans to express exasperation or disbelief. The word was first transliterated from the Xhosa language to Afrikaans, and then into South African English.

"So, there's been ANOTHER power outage, hey, bru? Eish."
I wonder if the word "eish" had its source in the four letter English curse word "sh&t".

Example #3: Botswana Music Guitar - Obed - "Letlhafula".

Bokete7 Published on Nov 17, 2012

Born 1952, Obed Batlang from Tlokweng just outside Gaborone playing his song.

Example #4: Krash Letlhafula

krash Wa'keli Published on Jul 5, 2012

New Music Video.'Letlhafula'.you always been waiting for it, after i performed this song at BTV,now you can enjoy and download it.
This is an example of Hip-Hop music in Botswana. Notice the gestures that were adopted from African American originated & performed Hip Hop music.

Example #5: ORANGE LETLHAFULA 2017

TheVoiceBW, Published on Jun 1, 2017

The 2017 edition of the Orange Lethafula.

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