The Mphebatho Cultural Museum near Sun City in the North West province of South Africa and its sister, the Phuthadikobo Museum in Botswana, are community-owned repositories that preserve and document the way of life of the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela people, thereby capturing their essence for generations to come.

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The outer walls of the museum have been decorated using cow-dung designs. Designs done by men and by women are quite distinct, according to tradition.

Established to preserve and showcase the culture and traditions of the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela people, the community-owned Mphebatho Cultural Museum – which occupies a 1930s schoolhouse – offers travellers an overview of a traditional African way of life.

And by visiting the museum near Sun City in the North West province, you’ll be helping the Bakgatla rediscover their identity as they share their colourful history.

Today the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela, of the Tswana people, comprise a community of 350 000 or so people, split for historical reasons between Kgatleng in Botswana and Moruleng in the North West province of South Africa. The museum documents their origins and culture, and the impact religion has had on their traditional way of life.

You will be absorbed into the lives of the Bakgatla through photographic displays, folklore, clay pottery, artefacts, traditional attire and documentary evidence on display in the museum.

A sister museum to Mphebatho, the Phuthadikobo Museum, which also belongs to the community, is located in Mochudi, Botswana. Together, the museums illustrate how the Bakgatla have remained true to their roots over generations despite the distance that separates them.

Like many of Africa’s cultures and customs, the museum performs an educational function as much as anything else. By recording and preserving the lives of the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela, the museum helps to ensure that integral traditions are passed on to future generations to retain cultural identity

In order to preserve the cultural practices and tribal policies of their people, community leaders established the museum in 1999.

Among the founders was Mmakgotla Grace Masuku, who was responsible for sourcing artefacts from more than 30 Bakgatla villages. She also shared her comprehensive knowledge of customs, herbalism and conservation practised by her people over successive generations, so that these could be documented in perpetuity.

On special occasions and for large groups, the museum’s curators are prepared to organise traditional dancing, cultural activities and African cuisine. An outdoor boma (thatched enclosure) is also available for traditional storytelling in the evenings.

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