People & Culture

People with pride

Citizens of Botswana are known as Batswana, with ‘Ba’ meaning ‘the people of’. (The singular is Motswana.)

Music

Music

In this video…Kumisso and his friend talk about their passion for music and explain what singing means to them.

Batswana feel a great pride in their history and government and share a strong sense of national identity. Any ethnic origins are usually considered as secondary.

The term Batswana also refers to the largest ethnic group in the country – the Tswana, who make up around two-thirds of the population and speak Setswana.

A variety of languages

Alongside the official language of English, Setswana is the main language of the country.

But at least 26 others are spoken by different ethnic communities. These fall into two different language groups – Bantu and Khoisan.

The Khoisan tongues are sometimes called the ‘click’ languages, because of their integral click sounds.

One Khoisan tongue is !Xoo, spoken by a few thousand people in Botswana. With five basic clicks and 17 accompanying ones, as well as vowels using four different tones of voice, !Xoo is the most complex-sounding language in the world.

Keeping tradition alive

Arts & crafts

Arts & Crafts

In this video… Two artists talk about their designs and what inspires them. You can see some of their work.

The modernisation of the economy is changing lifestyles in Botswana.

Some Khoisan speakers living in the Kalahari, referred to as the Bushmen or San, are fighting to keep alive their traditional hunting/gathering culture (practised for over 20,000 years).

The San’s foraging existence in the harsh arid environment of the Kalahari is endangered by the conservation laws of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and pressure to adopt modern ways of living - see Bushmen.

Traditional vs modern

Fixed gender roles (which have historically led to high levels of abuse against women) are also being challenged in society.

However, some aspects of traditional culture, such as respect for one’s elders and the right to be heard, are seen as important elements today.

Botswana has a long-held belief in democracy. Traditional towns and villages have a kgotla, a meeting place where everybody can have their say and decisions are taken by consensus.

Mixing beliefs together

Religion is central in society and Christianity, introduced by missionaries in the 19th century, is widely practised. However, churches often mix Christian liturgy with elements of indigenous beliefs.

Botswana’s indigenous or native beliefs are based around the worship of a supreme power. People also believe in the spirits of ancestors, who are thought to play an active role in the lives of their descendents.