The Crab in Basotho Folklore
In African folklore crabs are considered symbols of strength, courage, and determination. In their indigenous spirituality the Basotho people trace their origins from the Land of the Black Sun, Ntshwana-Tsatsi, among the great blue lakes where reeds abound. That is where the first Mosotho (singular of Basotho) was created. The early people trekked from the Land of the Reeds and the Black Sun led by a broken moon that looked like the pincers of the crab. The crab therefore is a powerful symbol of the Moon and a guardian of the night. It also symbolizes adaptability and resourcefulness. It is a guardian spirit that watches people over their travels, as it watched the early Basotho migrate from Ntshwana-Tsatsi, the land of their creation, to today’s Lesotho.
Most importantly it is a symbol of transformation and of new beginnings. My painting therefore portrays a creation story in an evolutionary sense. After centuries of travel Basotho finally settled on the mountains of what became Lesotho, which they shared with the Barwa people who lived in the caves and recorded their lives on the walls of those caves. The Barwa were people of the trance. They danced until they fell into a deep trance that took them to other dimensions, to the land of the dead and of the unborn. Some of these dances are portrayed on the walls of the caves. As are the great hunts and ancestral rituals. Since many of the Barwa people intermarried with Basotho, the latter share the former’s spiritual ancestry. In my painting their trance dances have been re-born or have evolved into the present day focho dance that is performed to a genre of music called famo that is always backed by the accordion.