Boipuso Botswana 2021
Updated: Oct 23
On this day, 55-years ago, the magnificent country that the NHFU calls home gained its independence. To pay tribute to the spectacular nation of Botswana, we decided to shed light on its history and culture by looking at its proud national symbols. These are of great significance to our country; they tell stories of the past and represent the unification of the future. They instill pride in a nation and play a fundamental role in its identity.
Two intertwined zebras, the national animal of Botswana. Photo credit: Hannah Gormley
Let us begin with the country’s simple yet significant blue, white, and black flag, which Botswana adopted to replace the Union Jack after gaining independence in 1966. At a time of such racial turmoil in Southern Africa, this choice signified the harmonious existence of all races within Botswana. Its black and white stripes mimic those of the zebra's, our national animal, and the sky-blue background signifies rainwater, a priceless commodity in this vast, arid country. Written on its coat of arms is a single word: "Pula". This word is both 'rain' in Setswana, and our national currency - in a country where rain is quite literally gold!
In Botswana, rain is literally money. Photo credit: Hannah Gormley
As mentioned, the national animal of Botswana is the magnificent black and white striped zebra. As with the flag, this choice represents the equality of all races and ethnicities living together in harmony under one Botswana sky. Botswana is home to countless zebra, as well as the world's longest overland animal migration of 25,000 individuals from the Boteti zone through the Makgadikgadi Pans, Nxai Pan, Okavango Delta, and into Savute. This is Botswana's best-kept secret, having only been 'discovered' 10-years ago when veterinary fences were removed and re-allowed this ancient ritual to continue unhindered. In many African countries, the zebra's habitat is rapidly shrinking and today they are classified as 'near threatened. We are proud to live in a country that has historically prioritised the conservation of vast swathes of land for the protection of these, as well as countless other, species. With the rising pressures of the modern world, we can only hope that this lifeline continues.
A dazzle of zebras run through frame. Photo credit: Liz Johnston.
The Kori Bustard was recently nominated the national bird of Botswana, taking its name directly from its Setswana name, 'Kgori'. As Africa's largest flying bird, they have always been revered in Motswana culture. Often, it was considered the 'Chief's Bird' and was not to be hunted or consumed by anyone other than the Chief or those he gave permission to. Like the zebra, these birds face an array of threats, from habitat loss to poaching, the exotic animal market to American fly-fishing enthusiasts (who use their feathers as bait)! But, if you've ever seen a Kori Bustard in its breeding plumage, you'll realise exactly why they're worth saving. During the height of their mating displays, huge crowds of ruffled up males gather in 'leks' at elevated points to attract females. Inflating their oesophagus to as much as four times its normal size, emitting a low-pitched booming sound, and snapping their bill at the females, they prove utterly irresistible.
A carmine bee-eater catches a lift. Photo credit: William Steele.
After the Botswana Democratic Party's very first meeting was held under the branches of a mightly Morula tree, it was given the honour of being Botswana's national tree. Known as the 'Tree of Life', its Vitamin-C-rich fruit is a favourite treat for all, including humans who harvest it for the infamous Amarula liqueur. Elephants, of which there are more in Botswana than in any other country in the world, are both its primary feeder and destroyer. They spread its seeds in their dung, but also feast relentlessly on its delicious bark. Thankfully, the Marula has evolved incredible coping mechanisms that give it an unprecedented ability to heal after this damage. The Kalahari Devil's Claw, or Sengaparile, is the last, but by no means least, of Botswana's national emblems - its flower. Indigenous to the most inhospitable corners of the Kgalagadi, this choice encapsulates Botswana's history as a strong and stable nation throughout enduring hardship.
A leopard, perched in a Morula tree, gazes at a passing bird. Photo credit: Hannah Gormley.
With the world in such turmoil, injustice, and uncertainty, let us look to our wise Batswana ancestors, the feisty zebra, the unique Kori Bustard, the mighty Morula, and unstoppable Sengaparile, for wisdom and strength. A bright future is possible as long as we work hard to protect it.