© 2018 Dr. M. Sheppard

Botswana Kanye Households People Lands Cattle-post Crafts

Family Yard - Lwa-Lapa

Lwa-lapa  can have two meanings according to context:

1. The whole area or yard in which a family build their houses in their sub-kgotla.

2. The mud-walled and floored enclosures built around individual houses of the yard. These walled areas may link two houses together.

Building a lwa-lapa

On a new house the lwa-lapa around the house cannot be built until after the First Rains have fallen. This task can only be undertaken in the dry winter season or the mud would disintegrate.

Such walled areas are often originally built and/or re-decorated for weddings and Botsetsi parties. On such occasions many female relatives will come to help. This lwa-lapa is being prepared for a wedding.

The bricks are made as for a house -see “Brick-making”

The the foundation layer of the walls is carefully laid out to provide a firm and straight base - this is done by eye. The elderly woman in the maroon jersey is and expert. In setting out the base layer the women ensure the entrance is not directly opposite the door of the house or the entrance to the yard as this is believed to attract lightning to travel from the entrance to the house.

The cattle dung and mud is well mixed

Double checking the base layers are straight so that the walls will remain strong

“Cementing” the bricks together with mud and cattle dung mixture

Again checking walls are straight

Gradually building up the courses - probably not more  than 2 courses per day to allow wall to dry out and harden

When the walls are the required height, they are “plastered” with the mud and cow dung mixture inside and out to provide strength. First a rough finish then a smooth top coat


Finally the walls are finished with  decorations from different coloured locally available clays which are mixed with cattle dung to stop the decorations spoiling during the Rains

Obtaining the colours for the decorations.

There are other areas for obtaining the yellowish colour for decoration.

This curved topping helps to protect the durability of the wall. Here it is then being decorated with the white mud mixture

Various layers of plastering over the brick base help to strengthen the wall

A Ruler for the straight lines and a small pot lid as pattern for the circles

Final finish with the red mud to show off the decorations

Floor of lwa-lapa is then sealed with a cattle dung  (with patterns) finish. As with the traditional floors inside houses, this needs to be frequently renewed

Breaking up a brick to fit the dimensions of the wall. The other lady to the left is mixing the mud and cattle dung mixture to the required consistency with the household waste water

The walls also need annual refurbishment. This maintenance can only be done during the dry season between harvest and the new Rains. This is the time of the year when families reside in their village homes until the next ploughing season. (See Sections on the Lands)