Land, botho and identity in Thomas Mofolo’s novels
Thomas Mofolo’s literary output belongs to a plethora of discourses which address the meaning of self-identification in colonial and precolonial settings. Focusing on all three novels by Mofolo, the main aim of this article is to demonstrate how he constructs the meaning of identity through the narratives of land, humanistic values and nationhood. Reference is made to national debates and the realities of Lesotho in the nineteenth century that underpin the structure of these narratives. The article highlights Mofolo’s insistence on botho, a humanistic value in Basotho society portrayed as an age-old indigenous consciousness antecedent to Christianity and Western influences. In Pitseng (1910) and Moeti oa Bochabela (1907), Mofolo substantiates botho’s significance through a depiction of heroism, faith and a cultural fusion that entails a shifting of loyalties between Sesotho culture, on the one hand, and Christian and Western values on the other. In Chaka (1925), the author intertwines references to Sotho and Nguni cultures to rationalise the meaning of botho as the basis of individual and social identity. Consequently, the article demonstrates how Mofolo’s works implicitly translate aspects of botho consciousness into a social, religious, economic and political practice.
Keywords: botho, nationhood, self-identification, Thomas Mofolo