Morija Festival, Lesotho: Unity in Diversity
Different festivals and celebrations from different places across the globe have different origins. Some are old with their roots steeped in ancient rites and mysticism passed down from generations to generations, while others are relatively modern; inspired by a yearning need to foster unity among the people by exploring their cultural heritage. The latter is responsible for the Morija Festival.
It all started at the turn of the millennium in early 1999 when the local community in Morija, a town in western Lesotho about 35km south of the national capital Maseru, enjoined the local museum to create a broad-based cultural event in the town. One of Lesotho’s most important historical and cultural sites, Morija is known as Selibeng sa Thut (Wellspring of Learning) and the first French Protestant mission was founded there in 1833.
Morija Museum & Archives
Officially opened in 19 56, Morija Museum houses cultural treasures such as traditional Basotho artifacts, Lifaqane and Boer War memorabilia with a rich collection of 19th-century documentation in the archives section dating back to 1826. The museum was built to carry on the tradition of Morija as a center of learning, innovation, and excellence.
Following the 1998 elections which resulted in a devastating political upheaval, the need for a platform to promote peace and unity, revive tourism while showcasing the country’s diverse cultural heritage was created. At the first edition of the festival in 1999, His Majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho advocated that the festival should further project Morija as a Wellspring of Culture.
Usually held either in late September or early October, the festival which lasts about 4 to 5 days has grown into the prime cultural event in the country, from its little beginning in 1999. However, since 2006 the festival has been split into two parts, namely: Morija Festival Cultural Competition, and Morija Arts and Cultural Festival.
The former features various competitions in drama, poetry, and traditional dance among primary and high schools, adults and various community cultural groups. The latter which takes place in April, lasting a week with three main days, feature concerts, exhibitions, and other performance events like jazz, choir famo, etc.
Over time, the festival has adopted the theme: “Kaofela re Chabana sa Khomo” which means Unity in Diversity. Her Majesty Queen ‘Masenate of Lesotho is both Patron of the museum and the festival.