Basotho have been wearing the traditional blankets for about 160 years. Legend has it that the first blanket was given to King Moshoeshoe I in 1860 by a British trader named Howell. The King loved it so much that he draped it over his shoulders (ala poncho) in the same manner that traditional cloaks/karosses were worn and soon blankets gained popularity among Basotho. When he asked the British for protection against the Boers of the Orange Free State in 1867, he described it as Queen Victoria “spreading her blanket” of protection over the Basotho.
In the 2018 movie, Black Panther, the blankets featured as the traditional clothing of the Border tribe and had vibranium (a fictional metal noted for its ability to absorb, store and release large amounts of kinetic energy), which gave them special protective powers. These protective abilities can be found in real blankets as most of the blankets (including Seanamarena that is worn in the Black Panther movie) have a high wool content, sometimes up to 90%, that keeps the body at an even temperature (i.e. cools the body when it is hot and keeps it warm when it is cold).
The wearer also stays dry when it rains, because wool does not absorb water and is fire-resistant, which is convenient since open fires are common in rural parts of Lesotho and the Free State. When the latest corona virus (covid-19) statistics were released and they showed that no cases of the virus have yet been reported in Lesotho, people on twitter jokingly attributed this to the blanket saying that nothing can pass through it, not even corona virus.
The Seanamarena comes in two designs:
- Chromatic design: It features a honeycomb background and the Ace of Spades. The CHR in the name come from the initials of Charles Henry Robertson, who introduced the Seanamarena brand and owned a trading store in Leribe district of Lesotho that sold blankets. Basotho call the design ‘skop’ which means to dig (as in spade).
- Corncob design: It features the mealies (poone), which symbolises growth and fertility.
Text: Amy Goitsemodimo l Anthropology l National Museum
#Day24ofLockdown l #Anthropology l #VirtualMuseum l #Basotho l #BlackPanther