The traditional art of decorating the home has been practised in Southern Africa for centuries although much of this creative art form is unknown to the rest of the world.

In 1987, the chance discovery of an exceptionally decorated home convinced Sandy and Elinah Grant that they had to find out if more decorated homes were to be found elsewhere. The result of their seven year quest is this throughly researched book. It provides a visual record of many of Botswana's wonderfully decorated homes and shows them in their proper setting, the magnificent traditional towns and villages.

The book describes the changing nature of settlement and home. It describes the characteristics of traditional decoration, introduces the reader to many of the outstanding women who still practice this remarkable vernacular art form, describes the materials and colours they use and the techniques they employ. The book should help to prompt widespread recognition of Botswana's rich cultural heritage.
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  • Introduction: Discovering a Forgotten Art Form
  • Country, Climate, People and Economy
  • Settlement - Culture and Change
  • The Changing Home
  • Decoration - The Historical Record
  • Colour and Materials
  • Representational Design and Motif
  • Geometric Design
  • The Lekgapho Design
  • Relief, Moulding and Texture
  • The Interior
  • Timing and the Work Seasons
  • Inspiration and Taste
  • Who Decorates?
  • The Role of Men and the Advent of Commercial Art
  • A Rural Tradition in the Urban Centres
  • The Artist, Her Community, Motivation and Future
  • Artists by Location
  • Glossary of Setswana words
  • Index

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"Like many others, we believed that the tradition of decorating the home in Botswanais a dying art form, which is practiced only by the old. Had this assumption proved correct, we would now be doing no more than providing a record of an art form which is effectively dead."

"The traditional houses of the Batswana people are both built and decorated by the female owner who combines the role of architect, builder and artistic designer."

"The Lekgapho disign is a pattern made solely with the fingers, normally on the floor of the lelapa but occasionally on the wall of a house."

"The women works with traditional and naturally available materials, earths and cow dung, and uses her hands. The man works with commercial materials, principally paint and cement and in doing so is obliged to use tools."

"Women restrict themselves to certain motifs, men to others. There is almost no overlap and there is almost no intrusion by the one into the domain of the other."

"In all these towns, the modern house is fast replacing the traditional house and cement is vecoming the substitute for clay. Small wonder, too, that this most wonderful of traditional art form is now to be found, not in the larger traditional settlements, but in villages that are more remote from modernizing influences."

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About the Authors

Sandy Grant was born in the UK but has Botswana citizenship. He obtained degrees in history and the conservation of the built environment from Cambridge University and Herriot Watt University, Edinburgh. He founded the Phuthadikobo Museum in 1975 and serves as Chairman of its Board of Trustees. He has lived in and around Mochudi for many years and has written extensively about its life and history.

Elinah Grant was born in Molapowabojang in the Southern District of Botswana but grew up in Zimbabwe. She returned to Botswana and attended Moeding College, Otsi and the University of Botswana where she read English and Environmental Studies. She is currently on the staff of the Botswana Book Centre.
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