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Who is Watching Who

The first attempt of any enthusiastic observer, writer, photographer or inquisitive tourist at the discovery of Lesotho in the larger sense will inevitably lead to extensive travel. Days are spent rumbling along the gravel roads of the mountains and tearing along the fine tarmac roads of the lowlands looking for the special picture, the Basotho cavalier with Morokotlo hat, and wrapped in his black and yellow Sienna Morena blanket astride a fine bay pony. Or hours of driving the mountain road to see the large numbers of herds and herd boys heading out on their annual transhumance towards the summer grazing valleys in the Central Range.

Eventually the traveller seasons, or like a good wine, aerates once the cork is out and the oxygen brings sense to his thoughts. You learn to slow down and eventually. This is Lesotho, not the city. The events that you are looking for. The pictures you are looking for. But they will come to you if you are patient. Find a spot on the side of a small road and wait there with your coffee and a book and a few rolls of film or a few extra memory chips. The images will walk past!

When foreign visitors came to Thaba Bosiu to seek audience with King Moshoeshoe, they were rightly given a seat and asked to await their moment with the great man. There was certainly no impoliteness on the part of the King in having his visitors wait, for sometimes quite extended periods. He would want to be prepared completely to receive his honoured guest. He would have had the delegate observed, spoken to, and somehow analysed by his trusted advisors or family members. At the he would say “I see you”. Meaning not that he could now accept or receive the person in his presence but that he could them.

As I sit there sipping my coffee and fiddling with my camera, I am ready for the passing event, the special moment or angle of light over a spectacular village or shimmering river. Ever the observer waiting for that ray of sunshine, I constantly calculate the composition of a possible shot, check the essential elements of an image which is still in my head. I notice the herd boys are now more evident than a few moments ago, the youngsters have come out of school and sitting on adjacent knoll looking down at this. Wherever you are there are friendly eyes watching you and I ask; who is observing who? Then I understand that I have been patient and waited for the The Basotho “see me”.

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