Day Trips Heading North
The Lentswe-la-Oodi Weavers is a Swedish-initiated cooperative (1973) situated in Oodi village, approximately 20 kms north of Gaborone, on the Francistown Road. The weavers – mostly women who now fully own the cooperative – produce handwoven wall hangings, tapestries, runners, napkins, cushion covers, jackets, and bedspreads, all designed by the weavers themselves. The wool is hand-woven and hand-dyed. Most designs depict rural scenes, animals or geometric patterns.
Interested customers can order originally designed pieces. Visitors are encouraged to browse the factory, and the adjacent shop.
Mochudi is home to the Bakgatla people, who migrated from presentday South Africa in 1871 to escape Boer encroachment of their lands. They settled at the base of Phuthadikobo Hill and along the Ngotwane River. Like most major villages in Botswana, Mochudi is a mixture of old and new, traditional and modern, as is best seen through changing architectural preferences in housing.
A tour of the village is best begun at the kgotla, signposted on the main road through the village, and situated near the tribal administration offices. It is proper courtesy to present yourself at the offices and ask permission to visit.
Recognised by large logs set vertically in the ground in a semicircle, this is the village meeting place and customary court, a focal point of the village. Nearby is a stonewalled enclosure where stray cattle and/or cattle that are being disputed, are kept. Two Kgatla chiefs, Kgosi Linchwe Khamanyane Pilane (who ruled between 1875 and 1924) and Kgosi Molefi Kgafela Pilane (who ruled between 1929 and 1958) are buried here. Also nearby are two traditional rondavels, beautifully maintained, and good examples of how village housing once looked.
A small path up the hill from the kgotla leads to the Phuthadikobo Museum. Packed with information about Mochudi’s history, the Museum is a reflector of cultural change in Botswana. Its collection of historical photographs shows women making pottery, blacksmiths operating bellows, chiefs making rain, houses being decorated, and boys’ and girls’ initiation rites. Artifacts include pottery, basketry and other traditional utensils, weaponry, as well as Regent Isang’s rain-making pots.
The building was originally a school built by Regent Isang Pilane in 1921. It was the first school in Botswana to offer secondary education and became a museum in 1976. It has steadily expanded its stock of artifacts and historical photographs. It holds a number of fascinating photographs donated by Professor Isaac Schapera, the world-renowned anthropologist who chronicled in meticulous detail the life and culture of the Batswana, and the changes rapidly taking place in their lives in the 20th century, nearly up to his death in the year 2000. There is a small shop in the Museum selling local arts and crafts, and silkscreen products made there.
Another building of interest is the Deborah Retief Memorial Church, administered by the Dutch Reformed Mission, located just after the turn-off to the kgotla. This was built by the Bakgatla in 1903 and is still in use today.
The Pilane Leatherworks, situated near the railway tracks crossover, near the Francistown Road, produce sturdy and long-lasting leather shoes, sandals, purses and handbags.
Further north on the main road, just after the village of Rasesa, this National Monument consists of a slab of sandstone pierced by two deep holes, as well as engravings. Legend says that the first ancestor of the Batswana, Matsieng – a giant, one-legged man, climbed out of one hole, followed by his people, their domestic animals, and wildlife. The engravings – now very faint – were probably made by Khoe herders, and date to the beginning of the second millennium.