Post by Tori Engelhard from Siena College
Among the many cool things about studying abroad, is learning the local history, while actually being in the place where it happened! On the weekend of March 29th, we went to the Khama III Memorial Museum in Serowe, Botswana. It is a small, modest museum that actually looks more like someone’s home than a museum. This only adds to its charm. The museum focuses on the history of Serowe, the town it is located in. Furthermore, it gives a lot of information about historical/famous figures relevant to Botswana, for example, writer Bessie Head, as well as more general information about Africa and the continent's culture.
Photograph of Serowe Village
When we arrived that Sunday morning, we were met by tour guide who took us on the sightsee. First, we examined photographs of Serowe and its people on the walls, beginning from the early 1900s and spanning decades. As we looked upon these prints of the past, our tour guide told us stories about the people and places. For example, I was particularly fascinated while looking at a photograph of a group of school students sitting on the ground outside being taught a lesson by their teacher. Our tour guide told us he, himself lived that experience; sometimes, the classrooms would be too crowded, and there would not be enough room for all the students. As a result, classes often had to be taught outside. This even happened in the winter, and he told us how he had suffered through the cold winds. Worse still, the winds would often blow their papers around while the students tried to write, but they tactlessly endured it. He joked that he was still able to pass. Listening to him tell that story, I thought about how lucky I was to have always had a classroom in America, where the wind couldn’t steal my notes and my warmth.
Artifacts in the museum
We explored other rooms of the museum, where we saw many artifacts and cultural items such as traditional outfits, plants, weapons, mats, blankets, seeds, animals parts (for example, a turtle shell turned into a bowl), and more. Our tour guide also told us the story Sir Seretse Khama and his wife Lady Ruth, the deceased parents of the current president of Botswana, Ian Khama.
Theirs was a fascinating love story between two young people, a white English woman and a black kgosi (tribal chief). Their interracial marriage sparked so much controversy (mainly because of apartheid in South Africa) that they were exiled in 1951. Eventually, however, they were allowed to return, and when Botswana gained its independence in 1966, Sir Seretse became Botswana's founder President!
Eventually, our tour came to an end, and we left. All in all, I enjoyed learning the local history. In a way, museums help one travel back in time, and this museum did just that. It was wonderful to get to know more of Botswana’s past, especially now that we are living in its present-day.