Modern-Day Cave Dwellers

BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN LESOTHO

CAVE DWELLERS in our time? We found some in Lesotho, a mountainous kingdom in southern Africa. Their village, Ha Kome, is situated about 40 miles [60 km] from Maseru, the capital city of Lesotho, in the foothills of the majestic Maluti Mountains. During the summer months, these mountain slopes are often covered with bright-red flowers. Commonly known as red-hot pokers, these beautiful flowers provide a striking contrast to the lush green vegetation of the area.

 Here several families follow a centuries-old way of life. They actually build their homes inside the caves of the mountain slope. Wooden sticks and other materials, such as reeds, form the frame of the thick front wall. The wall is insulated with a mixture of mud and cow dung. This insulation affords some protection from Lesotho’s cold winters, when the temperature can fall below the freezing point. Inside, there is a lowered spot in the floor called ifo, meaning “fireplace,” which is also used to provide some heat when it is cold.

The roof, the back wall, and often the sidewalls are all formed by the rock of the cave itself. A mixture of mud and cow dung is applied to these, and it is reapplied each year. This adds color and a smoother surface to the rock. Cowhides decorate the interior and are also used as mattresses for sleeping.

The Western visitor will find the traditional way of life refreshingly different. The popular mode of dress consists of colorful blankets and conical grass hats. Barefoot shepherd boys are often seen tending their herds. The men of the village can be seen either working in their maize fields or eagerly engaging in conversation with other men.

Signs of modern technology show up from time to time. The occasional small aircraft flying overhead and four-wheel-drive vehicles bringing visitors to the caves amuse young and old in the village. Most of the cooking is done outdoors in three-legged black iron pots over open fires. Because of the lack of firewood, dried cow dung, reeds, and a few tree branches are used for fuel. Common household implements found in these cave dwellings include the traditional hand mill for grinding maize and a wooden stick for stirring maize porridge.

Lesotho is well-known for paintings by Bushmen, which are found in numerous caves and on rocks throughout the country. Bushmen are the people who originally inhabited the caves of Ha Kome. Their paintings depict a wide range of activities, from fishing with boats and nets to elaborate dances where the participants apparently wore animal masks. The paintings also depict animals, such as baboons, lions, hippopotamuses, and eland, the largest of the antelope. Most of the paintings in the Ha Kome caves have vanished. Only some vestiges remain as reminders of the Bushmen’s artistry.

A group of Jehovah’s Witnesses engage in their preaching work in an area not too far from Ha Kome. From time to time, they visit the cave dwellers, who are known for their hospitality to visitors. The Witnesses are often welcomed with a bowl of local porridge called motoho. Many in Ha Kome are eager to accept Bible literature. Often they express appreciation for the literature by offering vegetables, eggs, or other items as donations for the Witnesses’ educational work.

These modern-day cave dwellers have a deep respect for the Bible and like to ask many questions about life, death, and their traditional beliefs. The activity of zealous Witnesses in that area has resulted in a number of Bible studies. In this way, seeds of truth have found fertile soil in the hearts of these humble people.—Matthew 13:8.

[Map on page 26]

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HA KOME