Research Article

Cattle culture and colour symbolism as reflected in selected artworks of Sotho-Tswana in South Africa

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 40, issue 3, 2020 , pages: 297–307
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2020.1855723
Author(s): Mathodi Freddie Motsamayi, South Africa

Abstract

This article examines cattle culture and colour symbolism as practised among heterogeneous Sotho-Tswana people in South Africa. It aims to decode some meanings of colours that frequently feature in the designs, homestead decorations, and languages of Sotho-Tswana people. Based on an emic approach and interviews with cultural practitioners, the study hopes to advance the documentation of material culture by emphasising cultural signifiers and ethical practices linked to specific colour symbols. I argue that the interpretation of cattle culture and colour symbolism may help to identify specific colours as significant in the context of creative production and indigenous nomenclatures. Currently, heritage institutions and researchers are faced with the enormous task of interpreting cultural objects that have, to a greater or lesser degree, been forgotten by the groups that produced them, and of unearthing the background of their production so as to enable the establishment of their past and present relevance to communities. In this article, I emphasise my own findings rather than relying entirely on possibly dated literature.

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