The lives of the Basotho are intimately linked to their land and their livestock. Most of their activity happens outdoors, and is very visible to the tourist and the photographer. In fact, I have never encountered more industrious people than the Basotho. Perhaps it is the proximity of the mountains, whose influence makes the climate so unpredictable, and the chores more urgent. Perhaps it’s just the way of the Basotho, who find that their close and constant connection with the world of the spirit informs their daily activities – as should perhaps be the case for all of us.
Methods of farming and animal husbandry appear to be out of date; one could say they resemble those found in history books relating to the 19th century and earlier. Much other ancillary work is of a similar nature. Stone is chiselled by hand; large rocks are split with wedges and hammers. Trees are cut down by hand with axes and crosscut saws. Even relatively modern equipment and machinery is repaired at the roadside or next to the fields, with rudimentary hand tools. Rural people partly live on the simple produce of their fields and their stock; any surplus is traded for tools or items produced elsewhere. Barter is common and a natural activity.
The Eurocentric observer may look at this in different ways – perhaps as quaint and picturesque, or as a sign of dire poverty. Lesotho is indeed one of the poorest nations on earth, and yet the people do not consider themselves poor. They live a simple life. And yet, who are we to judge or classify the lifestyle of others? The images themselves make no judgement.
However, I have always felt that the subjects are making a positive statement about their condition – or perhaps no statement at all. The Basotho very rarely give one reason for pity. On the contrary, every town, village, or homestead is a hive of activity and positive energy. Everyone seems to be going about their business with a smile, a laugh, and endless chatter. Among others, this is a quality I have tried to capture in my images.