Moshoeshoe I founded Lesotho and reigned as the first king of Lesotho. He is undoubtably Lesotho’s biggest national hero. He also had a GREAT name. It’s “Mo-shway-shway,” if you’re curious. Yes, that’s different from seshoeshoe, a traditional dress.
Moshoeshoe established a village in Butha-Butha, one of Lesotho’s northern districts, where he lived with his Basotho followers in the early 19th century. During this time, there were conflicts across Southern Africa as the Zulu King Shaka expanded his influence and fought other tribes.
To escape the violence, Moshoeshoe did something that every Mosotho schoolchild learns about: he moved his people to Thaba Bosiu. This “Mountain of the Night” was supposedly difficult to climb (although, I must say, I made it to the top in a pleasant afternoon). More than that, legend says that every night the mountain grew taller to prevent enemies from approaching the Basotho stronghold. Thus, the Basotho people survived and Lesotho was born!
Now, we celebrate Moshoeshoe’s legacy on a day in March that’s a little like a July 4th picnic meets a high school track meet. On March 11, school was cancelled and my entire village congregated on our “playground” (dirt track and field) for the festivities.
First and foremost, Moshoeshoe Day is an athletic competition. Several schools come together to compete in races of different distances. My students have been practicing every day after school for weeks! The races are in part just for fun, but students who do well also advance to regional competitions in the first stages of a competition that ends with national championships.
Because this is Lesotho, song and dance are of course part of the event. Teachers and students performed between races and yelled in support of their school. Parents and other community members came to watch and sell snacks on the sidelines. I spent the day cheering on my students, learning new songs, eating makoenya (fat cakes – yum!), and taking LOTS of photos!
I’m starting to feel like I’ve found my place in my community. I have friends, I know my students well, and I have so much fun at events like this that bring us all together.