Inspiration & Launch
In early 1999, Morija Museum was encouraged by the local community to establish a broad-based cultural Festival at Morija. It was envisaged that not only would such an initiative help to revive tourism after the devastating political upheaval in Lesotho following the 1998 elections, it would also provide a much-needed showcase for Lesotho’s diverse cultural heritage. It was hoped that by highlighting Lesotho’s culture, the Festival would also promote peace and unity.
From the beginning the Museum Board’s Chairman Emeritus, A.B. Thoahlane vision for the Museum and the Festival was clear. The Museum must not only be involved in educational programmes, research, publishing and tourism, but also in the promotion of living culture.
Lesotho’s Prime Cultural Event.
From a small beginning in 1999, the Morija Festival, as a call for peace and reconciliation, has resonated deeply with many Basotho, and thus the Festival has grown to become Lesotho’s premier annual cultural event. Today the Festival attracts approximately 35,000 people and it takes place for 4-5 days in late September or early October each year.
Although much more needs to be done in order to develop, promote and market the arts and local culture, the Morija Festival has helped to restore local pride, and has acted as a catalyst in the growth of a large number of “Cultural Days” and similar events at schools and communities across Lesotho where teachers, students and the community demonstrate their love for and competence in a range of cultural performances and celebrate their unity in diversity.
Moreover, district competitions for primary and high schools in various forms of traditional dance, drama, poetry and art are now held in most of Lesotho’s 10 districts, and these feed into the Morija Festival.
A Large Mobilization
Over the years, the Morija Arts and Cultural Festival adopted its main theme as “Kaofela re Chabana Sa Khomo “ or “Unity in Diversity” and has succeeded because of a range of support from, among others, the Royal Family, the Lesotho Government, donors, NGO’s, and Churches, the private sector, the community of Morija.
The success and growth of the Festival would not have been possible without the assistance provided by dedicated Museum staff and a range of volunteers, both local and international, especially those who serve on the Festival’s Management Team and Committees. Their dedication, together with that of many hundreds of performers and artists, and the broader support of the Government, the private sector, embassies, NGOs and the nation, has ensured the on-going success of the Festival. The Royal Family has offered the greatest moral support to the Festival. Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate is the formal Patron of Morija Museum and the Morija Festival.
Challenges & Rewards
Managing the Festival presents many challenges for the Museum, often stretching the resources to the limit but there are so many positive impacts as a result of the event. It promotes the Lesotho arts sector, increases tourism, assist the local economy and the broader community to prosper and promoting Morija as an ideal venue for creative, educational, sporting and entertainment events. The main objective of this festival is to bring people of different views and backgrounds together to celebrate the diverse cultural heritage of Lesotho and to boost tourism, and encourage craft sellers and small scale manufacturers. It is an opportunity for Basotho of all ages and backgrounds to demonstrate the richness of their culture. The Morija Arts and Cultural Festival is a contemporary display of the richness, diversity, and vibrance of Basotho culture and Lesotho’s heritage over the past two centuries.
To become involved please contact the Museum.