During the reception at Mary and Phoka's wedding, their family surprised them with a very special gift. The couple were adorned with two gorgeous blankets, called the seannamarena. The bride gushed over the gift, saying how the seannamarena blanket is not presented to just anybody. It's a special blanket that's given as a sign of respect. But what is the history of the blanket that is the subject of one of the most popular wedding songs in SA?
Its origins can be traced back to the European traders and missionaries as far back as the 1800s. The popularity and assimilation of the blankets by the Basotho people can be traced back to one single incident.
A blanket was presented to the then King, King Moshoeshoe I in 1860 by a man by the name of Mr. Howel. The King was by all accounts quite taken with the blanket and wore the blanket in preference to his then neglected traditional leopard skin karosses. This is why it's called a seannamarena, which means worn by kings in Sesotho.
Ceremonial uses for seannamarena blankets
Although blanket styles have been subject to outside influences, they are still to this day closely linked with the milestones of Basotho family life:
1. Boys preparing for the circumcision ritual don a special fertility blanket known as a moholobela. After the ceremony he’s considered to have reached manhood, and wears another kind of blanket, called the lekhokolo.
2. On the occasion of his wedding, a man wears a motlotlehi, and he presents his wife with a serope when their first child is born.
3. Before her wedding day, a woman spends a great deal of time trying on and selecting blankets for her trousseau. Women’s blankets are quite different to men’s – they are designed to be pinned over their bosom whereas the men pin them to the right shoulder.
4. There are also special occasions in the Basotho’s national life where blankets symbolize the particular event. For instance, on Independence Day or National Tree Planting Day, a man of substance may wear not one but three blankets, namely the Torch blanket, a Victoria and a Sandringham.
Watch the couple receive their auspicious gift again here:
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