© 2018 Dr. M. Sheppard

Botswana Kanye Households People Lands Cattle-post Crafts


Traditional Houses, of which there were still many in the 1970s and 1980s, were made of locally available materials - clay, cattle dung and thatch. Different coloured clays  (also locally available) were used to decorate them. Rondavels (round  one roomed  thatched houses) were the traditional shape but oblong 2-3 roomed  thatched houses were also popular. Cooking areas were usually separate to reduce the danger of fire. Pit latrines were built away from the houses within the yard and a separate enclosed washing area was also constructed - often surrounded by stick fencing to afford privacy.

Cement brick and cement floored zinc roofed oblong houses were becoming popular as they required much less maintenance. Family yards often contained a mixture of different types of houses

Some families were also installing water taps in their yards, but often these would fail to produce water in the dry season and water would need to be fetched from the various communal village water taps.

Rondavel in the Kalahari -  suitable clayey mud unavailable in this area of sandy soils.

Typical rodavels in Kanye. These are both made from bricks made clay mud mixed  with cattle dung. The walls are then plastered with a similar mixture. The floors are made of a foundation of cattle dung and clay and then sealed with cattle dung. The foundation needs to be renewed every 4-6 weeks and the cattle dung finish weekly. This cattle dung in the building materials tends to attract destructive termites.

Repairing leaks in the thatch

View looking up into the centre of the roof inside the rondavel. Many of the older rondavels have a central  strong wooden post inside  supporting the roof. The main rafters to support the thatched roof are attached to this.

Another style has  the roof supported by the external wooden posts

Traditional Floors

A cattle dung finish that must be maintained weekly is made on a mud and concrete base. First the cattle dung must be collected

Testing with a foot - cow pats must not be too wet nor too dry

Collecting into a bowl to take home to make the floor

Collected cattle dung emptied onto floor & worked with a little water

Then spread over the floor evenly

Often elaborate “finger”patterns formed  to decorate the floor

Traditional Mud Shelves -

These beautifully made functional and decorated mud shelves were still in use in some rondavels. This woman was very talented at constructing and maintaining them as like the traditional flooring they need constant maintenance

Other types of houses

2-roomed house made of mud bricks bricks, plastered with cement and floor of cement

Mud bricked house to have zinc roof house under construction

Cement brick house with zinc roof.