Working with the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela

Totem Media has been working with the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela since 2010. It has been a fascinating journey both parties, and we feel confident that the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela have embarked on a heritage project that will not only benefit their own community but will offer a set of best practices for other southern African communities to follow. It is very rare indeed that rural communities have the resources and the political will to embark on projects like this. The Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela archive, museums and cultural precinct have the potential to lead the way for other communities, governments and policy makers.

Kgosi Pilane should be congratulated for his far-sighted vision. 

Professor Christian John Makgala

Our relationship with Totem Media

“As members of the Board of Phuthadikobo Museum in Mochudi we met on several occasions with experts from Totem Media. The Totem Media group was led by Francis Gerard. Totem Media has also met with officials from Mphebatho Museum in Moruleng, a sister Museum to Phuthadikobo Museum in Mochudi. The two meseums belong to the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela community which has one section in Moruleng (Northwest Province of South Africa) and Kgatleng District in Botswana. However, the two sections are under the leadership of Kgosi Kgolo Kgafela II who is based in Mochudi in Botswana.

“Totem Media plays the role of consultants who assist the two museums to modernize and be efficient in the use of available space and resources/artifects. In January 2010 delegates from Phuthadikobo and Mphebatho Museums met with Francis and his team at their base, The Origins Centre, in Johannesburg. We were shown around the ultra-modern and state of and art facility of which we would like our two museums to emulate. This was a very helpful experience in terms of knowledge on how artifacts are cared for and displayed in the most efficient and eye catching manner.

“We subsequently met with Francis’ team on a couple of occasions at Phuthadikobo Museum. The first meeting involved a tour of the village’s historical and cultural landmarks of significance. These form part of the planned ‘cultural/heritage hub’ the Museum is intending to establish in Mochudi. The second meeting was largely about update on some of the tasks that Totem Media has suggested as a way forward. There was a very helpful presentation by Bathusi Lesolobe on his UNESCO sponsored project on aspects of culture in Botswana, with Kgatleng be used as a pilot project. Challenges faced by the community, such as the on-going court case involving Kgosi Kgolo Kgafela II were also touched on. Generally our interaction with Totem Media has been as spiritually uplifting as it is educational, and we appreciate it greatly.”

One of many photographs taken in the 1930s in Mochudi, Botswana by Isaac Schapera.

Within South Africa there are communities similar to the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela that are trying to rediscover and assert their identities. Totem has worked with the nearby Bafokeng on a similar project and is committed to contributing to the discourse on preserving the heritage of rural communities. Such projects face numerous and fascinating challenges:
  • the lack of material culture to use in exhibitions;
  • the need to repatriate images and artifacts;
  • the differences between traditional value systems and that of the national democracy;
  • the conflict between the information communicated in oral histories and the evidence uncovered by archaeologists and historians;
  • working within the hierarchies and protocols of traditional communities.   

Two panels in the temporary exhibition that we designed for the Mphebatho Museum that deal with
the use of pots and ceramics in the traditional community.  


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