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It is largely the culture of the Batswana that has dominated that of other minority groups. This is particularly evident with regard to cattle ownership. Cattle, the traditional Tswana source of wealth and status, are now desired by most, if not all groups of people in Botswana. But this exchange of cultural values has not been a one-way affair: minority groups have influenced and contributed to the dominant culture in numerous ways - in Ngamiland, for example, the Bayei fishing methods were adopted by the ruling Batawana.
Recent years have seen the introduction of western culture in the form of western business, technology, consumer goods, tourism and the media. There is a rather circuitous route, which all this takes to get to Botswana. South Africa, heavily influenced by America, Europe and Japan, acquires the latest goods and media items from these countries first; Botswana, in turn, imports nearly all commodities from South Africa. Botswana can well afford to buy in such goods, but personal wealth on the scale that exists for the elite few in Botswana is a new phenomenon.
Life in the urban areas has been most affected by western culture and increasing modernity. In the rural areas many traditions persist and ways of life differ from region to region. Some of the more obvious physical aspects of the different cultures have disappeared (such as traditional clothing, arts and crafts, most ritual ceremonies and some tools and utensils). Others remain important, however, such as cattle ownership, music and dance and the consultation of traditional healers.
The changes, which have come so rapidly to Botswana, have had their advantages and disadvantages. Better health and education facilities have been provided and increased prosperity has improved the standard of living for some. However, there is a steadily widening gap between the rich and the poor.
Music and dance
Music is the aspect of culture, which has perhaps best survived the onslaught of western influences in Botswana. Both traditional and modern music of numerous ethnic groups from southern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa are heard nearly everywhere you go - in shops, malls, houses, schools, cars, combis, trains, taxis and bars. Music, dance and singing are an integral part of everyday activities and modern-day ceremonies such as weddings and even funerals.
Batswana have incorporated their traditional music into church singing. The result is some of the most stirring, soulful music on earth. There are a lot of church choirs, in both urban and rural areas.
Children are taught traditional music and dance at primary school. Even in secondary schools, morning assembly sometimes begin with singing. Teacher training colleges often have their own dance troupes, some of which have performed overseas. Traditional dance competitions for schools are periodically held, usually in larger towns and villages, and many schools from around the country participate. These school groups also perform for the public on public holidays - in villages, town halls and community centres. The dancers, wearing traditional costumes of skins and beaded jewellery, move exuberantly and energetically. The music is happy, infectious, and full of feeling.
Early tribal religions were primarily cults. The supreme being and creator was known as Modimo. Religious rites included the bogwera and bojale (male and female initiation ceremonies) and gofethla pula or rain-making rites.
Today, Christianity is the most prevailing belief system in Botswana, with well over 60% of the population. It was brought into Botswana by David Livingstone in the middle 19th century who converted Kgosi Sechele I (Chief of Bakwena) to Christianity. The main denominations are - Roman Catholic, Anglican, Zion, Lutheran and Methodist Christian Church.