Morija, Lesotho Beating Cultural Heart: enjoy Morija Festival, Morija Museum & Archives, Basotho History, Arts & Culture... Visit Morija!

Current Projects

Morija Museum & Archives is constantly involved in a wide-range of projects. These projects assist the museum to modernise, increase its vision and reach. The generosity of various partner organisations, businesses and individuals help to make these projects a reality.

Except for the lesiba (shown) and ´mamakhorong, two instruments stillwidely played by shepherds, most other traditional instruments have fallen into disuse. Seeking to inspire a new generation to take up these other instruments and integrate these into new performance contexts (like jazz, theatre and famo), work has taken place with support from the Embassy of Austria and others to locate resource people in Lesotho who play these endangered instruments, record some of these, encourage collaboration with other artists, and train up students at pilot schools in Maseru. To date these efforts have shown promise at times, but more consistent effort is required if greater success is to be achieved.

Morija Museum & Archives is thankful for the generosity of various partner organisations, businesses and individuals who support its vision by providing funding and in-kind support, thus helping the museum to develop and maintain programmes and infrastructure. A brief list of on-going and recent projects is below.

Repatriation of Historical and Cultural Material

Through funding from the French Government in 1999 and the US Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation in 2001, trips were taken to Europe in order to locate, copy and/or return Lesotho materials housed in France and The Netherlands. Some of these materials have already been incorporated into Morija Museum exhibits or the archives, while others will be featured in exhibits once the Phase II Expansion Project is realized. With surplus funds left over from the second trip, a new storeroom for artefacts was constructed.

Restoration of Masitise Cave House Museum

Through assistance provided by the US Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation in 2003/4, the historic Cave House at Masitise in the south of Lesotho was restored, new exhibits were developed, and the feeder road and path were enhanced. On-going engagement with the parish and community at Masitise led to the formation of a more energetic and viable committee to oversee this heritage and tourism centre, and a Curator has since been employed to animate this process, with support from the Ministry of Tourism, Environment & Culture.

Some of the main priorities of the Cave House Museum are to enhance the embryonic Bed & Breakfast that exists in order to generate more income and make the Cave House Museum more economically sustainable, to renovate other historic buildings in the vicinity in order to preserve these and make them available for tourism and other uses, to become better connected to the internet in order to market itself, and to carry out research into the minority cultures in the southern part of Lesotho in order to further document, preserve and interpret these to the rest of the nation and the wider region.

School Programmes

Although Morija Museum & Archives has attracted more than 170,000 paying visitors since it re-opened its doors in September 1989, 80% of whom are local teachers and students, it realizes only too well that a large majority of students and teachers in Lesotho are not exposed to any museum or heritage institution. As such, it has made efforts from 2000 to directly engage teachers and education authorities in order to clarify what interventions it could make to enhance the learning experience of students, especially those who cannot visit the museum. Read More

School Cultural Competency and Competitions Programme:

As an outgrowth of the Morija Arts & Cultural Festival, many schools became aware that students were becoming dis-connected from the nation’s cultural roots, and that not enough attention was being paid to nurturing the creative talents of our youth. As such, the museum initiated a programme whereby primary and high schools across Lesotho placed more emphasis on learning/improving their understanding and skills in various cultural and creative forms. The first area that received attention were various forms of traditional dance. Over the past decade, with support from the Ministry of Education and a range of local businesses, the programme has grown to include not just traditional dance, but also traditional instruments and games, as well as poetry and drama. Art has recently been added, and our desire now is to move forward with a pilot project in dramatized dance at a limited number of high schools. At present, over 800 primary and high schools are participating at centre and district level, with the final competitions taking place at the annual Morija Arts & Cultural Festival in late September/early October.

Outreach Programme

In order to help bring various lessons related to history, culture, science and life skills to schools, a number of smaller interventions took place from 2001. Over the next few years, a variety of lessons based upon museum artefacts and multi-media presentations were developed. Eventually, in 2009, a larger outreach programme targeted at primary schools in the districts of Berea, Maseru and Mafeteng, was started with support from the Embassy of Finland in South Africa. During 2009 and 2010, over 100 schools were visited. Staff from Morija Museum trained additional staff so that they could deliver lessons based upon various artefacts, as well as multi-media presentations. A Steering Committee of Education Officials and Teachers from these districts was selected to take the programme to the next level: the capacitation of teachers to run the programme for themselves. Unfortunately, the programme was halted when funding dried up as a result of the global economic and financial crisis. If new partnerships were entered into, this programme would be a high priority. Read More

Traditional Musical Instruments

Except for the lesiba and ´mamakhorong, two instruments stillwidely played by shepherds, most other traditional instruments have fallen into disuse. Seeking to inspire a new generation to take up these other instruments and integrate these into new performance contexts (like jazz, theatre and famo), work has taken place with support from the Embassy of Austria and others to locate resource people in Lesotho who play these endangered instruments, record some of these, encourage collaboration with other artists, and train up students at pilot schools in Maseru. To date these efforts have shown promise at times, but more consistent effort is required if greater success is to be achieved.

Morija Arts & Cultural Festival

Since 1999, the annual festival has been a major undertaking of Morija Museum together with a wide range of partners, including the Lesotho Government, various embassies and organizations, many businesses, and the arts community.

The Festival is intended to:

a) Contribute to national cohesion and a positive forward-looking culture, especially among youth;
b) Enhance creative and sustainable cultural industries;
c) Showcase local talent and culture;
d) Promote tourism, art, crafts and small business.

Despite various ups and downs over the past 14 years, the Festival has contributed significantly towards the realization of its objectives. Nonetheless, because of funding and human resource constraints, it has not been possible to invest more in the development of local talent. If more resources were to become available, much more would be invested in developmental programmes in the visual and performing arts, as well as in exchange programmes and the like.

One major initiative in this regard has been the Morija Arts Centre, which was launched in June 2011 by His Majesty the King when Maeder House Art & Craft Gallery (LINK) was re-opened under the new management of Patrick and Aasha Rorke. Patrick is a citizen of Lesotho and has many years of experience as a professional artist, being versatile in painting, ceramics, metal work, mosaics and other media. He has taught and mentored artists and students for a number of years in Johannesburg. His wife Aasha is a jeweller and serves as the Gallery Manager.

The purpose of the Arts Centre is to mentor young artists and students to enhance their creative talents. Promising artists will be fully immersed in the practical requirements of developing viable businesses that can allow them to pursue their creative vision and gifts in the arts. The Arts Centre is meant to be a means of nurturing an artistic community that is both viable economically as well as truly creative.

After one year of operation, the Gallery has proven to be viable. Patrick has engaged in teaching at Morija English Medium School, has offered holiday classes and art to students, has developed a network of artistic contacts and is mentoring a number of artists. He has been working with local ceramicists, experimenting with local clay and glazes, and is now ready to move forward with a larger project of commercial production of ceramics, one that will benefit a wider number of potters. At the same time, Aasha will be developing a component in jewellery production (especially in silver).

As these initiatives move forward, we are inviting other creative practitioners to join this community and contribute in other areas whether this be in photography, animation, graphic design, theatre, poetry or dance. Read More

Phase II Expansion Project

The current facilities for Morija Museum & Archives were constructed in 1988 with support from Ford Foundation, Goldfields of South Africa and the Netherlands-Lesotho Foundation. These facilities were intended to house the Morija Archives, but when additional funding for Phase II was not forthcoming, these facilities became home to both the archives and museum. Now, 24 years later, after significant growth in both programming and staff, the facilities are congested and quite inadequate. A plan for Phase II has been accepted by the Museum Board. For further information, please contact the Museum Curator. Read More

Digitisation of Archival Materials

Over the past two years, greater progress has been made in cataloguing the Archival Collections at Morija. With significant amounts of material that is unique to Morija, efforts have been taken to engage partners to assist with digitising these materials and making these available to researchers through the internet. Serious discussions are being held with two potential international partners in this regard. It is hoped that the process of digitising can begin in earnest by early 2013. Read More

Research & Publishing

Over the past 20 years, Morija Museum has sought to reprint various classics about Lesotho/the Basotho which have been long out of print, as well as to publish new works dealing with the history, culture and environment of Lesotho as well as important topical issues. Over 20 titles have been published to date and further manuscripts will be published on an annual basis. Although the Museum’s Book Publishing Fund has performed well over the past 20 years, further resources for specific projects are still needed from time to time. More particularly, research grants are required to follow up certain research areas, for example, the life and times of the renowned 19 th century prophetess Anna ‘Mantsopa Makhetha, and the meaning of her legacy today.

Significant research has also been carried out for a variety of consultancies since 2005, mainly focused on historical and heritage issues. This research should be edited now and placed in a form that is more useful to a general audience.

If you would like to contribute to the on-going research and publishing initiatives of Morija Museum, or would like to collaborate with us, please contact the Curator, Stephen Gill. Read More

Heritage Management & Community-based Tourism

Although Morija Museum & Archives has carried out major consultancies management at Thaba-Bosiu, Metolong, Kobong, Lets’eng-la-Terae and other sites of national importance, its primary mandate is with regard to historic sites connected to the Lesotho Evangelical Church. As such, it has invested heavily in the resuscitation of the Masitise Cave House Museum in the south of Lesotho, as well as in surveying and documenting important sites and buildings in a number of older parishes in the Lesotho Lowlands. Its aim is to foster a stronger consciousness among parish communities to preserve and interpret these sites in order to develop community-based tourism initiatives.

At present, efforts to develop parish heritage committees are moving forward, and it is expected that pilot committees in a number of parishes will be selected in the first part of 2013. Training as well as more extensive documentation and planning will then take place to see that the heritage resources of these areas are used wisely and that tourism is promoted. It is hoped that a Heritage Fund can be established in order to assist weaker parishes with the maintenance of historic buildings and initiatives to promote a viable Heritage Trail.

In the greater Morija area, additional efforts are in motion to help empower a Tourism and Business Forum and enhance the tourism potential of the area through small projects under the mentorship of a volunteer from Australia, as part of an Australian Volunteers International program initiative.

Contact: 

For more information about Morija Museum & Archives programmes and projects, as well as the Morija Museum & Archives Trust Fund, please contact the Curator, Stephen Gill.

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