Traditions and customs of Botswana

What traditions and customs are there in Botswana?

A look at the customs and traditions that exist in Botswana, an African country.

Food and economy

Food in daily life

Sorghum or maize porridge is the staple of most Botswana meals. People wake up in the morning to a thinner version of oatmeal, sometimes spiked with sour milk and/or sugar, and tea.

A thicker version of porridge, known as bogobe, anchors the hearty midday meal, accompanied by a stew of meat and/or cabbage, spinach (or wild greens), or beans. People also use rice, but it is considered more expensive and associated with Europeans.

Meats include chicken, goat, sheep, cattle, fish, a caterpillar known as a phane, and various types of wild game. Village dinners may include midday leftovers, but for many people it is often just tea and buttered bread.

There are many restaurants representing food from all over the world in urban areas. Fast food chains like Kentucky Fried Chicken, Nando’s chicken, and Pie City are very popular. In smaller villages, there may be no restaurants.

Fat cakes, somewhat like round donut holes, are sold as snack foods quite ubiquitously. Locally brewed sorghum-based beer is popular in rural areas and is commercially available as chibuku; people also drink the stronger khadi made from honey and sugar.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

At large public events, such as the opening of a new government building, and at weddings and funerals, men prepare the centerpiece: meat cooked in large iron pots until it shreds.

Women prepare porridge and/or rice, squash/squash, and often coleslaw or beet salad, and people are served lots of plates of food, arguing to get more meat for themselves.

Beer is often served in Botswana at weddings, and ginger beer at other events; tea and fat cakes are prepared for weddings and funerals that have components throughout the night.


The various ethnic groups in Botswana have different marriage traditions. In past practices, most groups allowed polygamy (the taking of more than one wife), a girl’s first marriage was arranged by her family, and marriages involved payment of bride rent or housekeeping. girlfriend.

In the past, Tswana marriages were best described as a process, reaching the full definition of marriage often only after many years; steps in the process included soliciting marriage and preliminary exchanges, intercourse but not cohabitation, children, a public celebration, the establishment of a home within the man’s compound, and the wealth of the bride.

The economic status of the bride remains common, polygamy less so, and while most marriages are negotiated by family members, the spouses choose each other.

Most Batswana register a civil marriage, as well as perform customary marriage ceremonies at home, and many also have a church wedding.

People can marry under customary property arrangements or civil community property agreements, but in both cases the woman is disadvantaged and the husband is likely to control the property.

Divorce can be sought by women and men, with common reasons including adultery, lack of support or housework, and abuse. But today many women choose not to marry, for autonomy and to maintain control over their own children.


The Batswana emphasize lengthy greetings and asking each other questions. It is polite to address older men as Rra and women as Mma (literally father and mother). Adult women should keep their thighs covered, but more and more women wear tight pants and short skirts are seen in urban areas.

While the young should be deferential to their elders and women to men, these patterns hold more strongly in villages than in urban areas.


Religious beliefs

Most Batswana are Christian in one form or another, although some still follow local practices. Small communities of Muslims, Hindus and Baha’is are present.

There are numerous small independent churches led by local prophets, larger churches with regional representation, and major international Christian sects.

Many of the local Christian churches incorporate recognition of older local religious practices and beliefs, including the influences of the ancestors in people’s lives, often with a focus on healing and promoting wellness.

The traditional beliefs of most ethnic groups focused on ensuring ancestral beneficence; Kalanga also followed the mwali cult, and Sarwa rites focused on troublesome but unfamiliar spirits.

Many people who belong to a Christian church also perform private family rites of the ancestors to protect a new compound or a new house, or when sickness and repeated misfortune afflict family members.

Religious practitioners

The Batswana occupy positions of responsibility in Christian sects throughout the world. Women and men with charismatic powers to heal and contact God originate and lead their own sects.

At events such as weddings or funerals, leaders from different churches preside cooperatively. Within households, older men are generally the ones who make contact with the ancestors and act on their behalf.

Traditional religious specialists can bring rain, diagnose misfortunes, or strengthen homes against evil influences and witchcraft, using herbs, roots, and special medicines. Some are believed to practice witchcraft, called boloi, and use human body parts to help their clients.

Rituals and Holy Places

Other than churches, there are no national holy sites in Botswana, and the national ceremonies for Independence Day and President’s Day are predominantly civic, accompanied by Christian prayer.

Some members of various ethnic groups maintain ritual and holy places; for example, the Kalanga locates Mwali (God) in the Matopo Hills to the east, and the Herero will maintain a “sacred fire,” or okuruo, in the compound of him.

Death and afterlife

Most Batswana believe in a Christian life after death and anticipate the resurrection. People also expect the deceased to hold an interest in their descendants, such as ancestral spirits. People want to be buried in their hometowns, even those who haven’t lived there for a long time.

Today most people are buried in cemeteries, but some Batswana are still buried within their precincts. Funerals are very important events, expected to be attended by a wide range of family, neighbors and other associates; expenses are very high for many families.

Secular celebrations

Holidays are four-day weekends. Secular holidays include President’s Day in mid-July and Botswana Day on September 30, which celebrates independence.

Arts and Humanities

Arts support

In Botswana the government provides limited support for performing arts and fine arts. Schools have choral and dance groups, and young people can receive grants to develop song-drama groups. The National Museum and Art Gallery promotes local artists and hosts annual exhibitions of fine arts and traditional Western-style crafts.


Praise poetry was highly elaborated in the Tswana chiefdoms and is still mastered by a number of older men, but modern literary forms are not highly developed as yet. Botswana’s best-known writer is Bessie Head, a South African émigré who lived in the country and wrote extensively about it.

Graphic arts

Crafts, in particular basketry, as well as woven and printed fabrics, are developed for the urban and tourist market. The traditions of house painting in southeastern Botswana have declined in recent decades.

Performing arts

Choral groups proliferate, often associated with voluntary associations, and compete on a neighborhood, village, and national level; An Eisteddfod is held annually for the school choir and traditional dance groups.

The singing-drama groups are made up of young people; her performances focus on social issues facing young people, including pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. Some Tswana musical groups are becoming popular in the region.

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