A Little Lesotho Love Story. Part 1.

 

Synonymous with the nation of Lesotho, the beautiful Basotho Blankets are deeply woven into the history, culture and daily lives of the Lesotho people. Many people think that the blankets, seen at almost every turn in Lesotho, originated from and are made in Lesotho. They would be wrong...These blankets were introduced by the British back in the late 1800's. At the time, Lesotho was closely tied to Britain, as they were under protection of the British empire. With the increase of European influence, some exceptionally cold winters and the scourge of the 1897 rinderpest, local tribes were finding alternative sources of protection, other than the animal skins they had been wearing. While very rudimentary forms of blankets were introduced earlier, it was after King Moshoeshoe 1st was given a blanket as a gift in 1860, and wore it with great pride, that the story and culture of blanket wearing really began.

  

The Basotho blankets were originally manufactured in England and only in the 1920's did manufacturing of the blankets begin in South Africa. To this day, manufacture is limited annually so designs and colours is very much about what is available. The original designs were inspired by both the British empire and local customs and the Basotho people became so attached to the particular designs, that largely, the blanket design and colour sets have remain unchanged ever since – that's for over 100 years! Even today, the occasional new design is approved only by the King.

The blankets are all made of wool with a cotton wrap around the edges. The amount of pure, virgin lamb's wool making up the blanket is a key determinant in the prestige of the blanket. Wool is an excellent protector from the elements – both the harsh winters in the high altitudes of Lesotho and the hot summers. Wool can also resist water and fire which meant it was the perfect fabric for daily life in Lesotho. The beautiful designs are actually a jacquard weave meaning that they are woven into the blanket, not printed as some may think.

The blankets have been made famous when they were given as special gifts to esteemed guests such as Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and the Prince of Wales. Even Prince Harry has helped keep the story alive with his ongoing interest in Lesotho.

Nelson mandela wearing basotho blanket  

Pope John Paul II wearing basotho blanket

Read on for parts 2 and 3 that explain the meaning of the different blankets and the secret language of how they are worn.

And of course! Take a closer look at these incredible blankets in our Cultural Blankets range.

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