The Story of the Morija Museum
Morija Museum was formally established in 1956 based upon the Dieterlen family ethnographic and historical collections together with paleontological and geological collections from the Ellenberger brothers. These two collections provide the main pillars of the present-day Museum collections which have been growing incrementally ever since as a result of donations from both local and expatriate supporters. It is these collections which also provide the basis for a range of educational programs as well as on-going research.
Other MMA initiatives have made a great impact in the arts and culture, the most notable being the establishment of the annual Morija Arts & Cultural Festival (discontinued after 2013), as well as nation-wide School Cultural Competitions, Maeder House Art Gallery and the Morija Arts Centre, and the digital creativity lab known as The Hub @ Morija.
The Museum develops and encourages a wider range of tourism services and products in the greater Morija area. Since 2016, for example, this has taken on an added dimension through the Seriti sa Makhoarane Heritage Tourism Initiative. See the visitmorija.com website for fuller information of heritage and tourism within the greater Morija area.
In addition, MMA is involved in heritage and community-based tourism initiatives at Masitise Cave House Museum in the far south of Lesotho, Maphutseng and other sites. Consultancy work has been undertaken at a number of heritage sites like the Thaba-Bosiu National Monument and in relation to large infrastructure projects, including the massive Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II Polihali Dam in Mokhotlong District.
Albert Brutsch 1916-2004
Having arrived in Lesotho during 1942 as a Protestant missionary, Albert showed great interest in history. Among many other responsibilities, he became the Archivist for the Church of Basutoland / Paris Evangelical Missionary Society from 1952, a position he held for over 50 years. Widely read and deeply immersed in local history, his contribution towards the research of many other scholars and graduate students was substantial. Rev Brutsch also played a pivotal role in the establishment of permanent facilities for Morija Museum & Archives during the 1980s, and in inculcating within new staff at the Museum a rigorous attention to detail, to nuance, and an aversion to hasty generalisations.
Kemuel Matsoso Ntšihlele 1913-2001
A trained teacher, K.M. took on the role of Museum Educator (part-time) while employed at Morija Sesuto Book Depot from the late 1950s, a role which he fulfilled during much of the period up through the mid-1990s. His passion was to lead tours of the Museum and to impart his knowledge of Basotho culture and history to new generations of students as well as visitors and tourists. Media from South Africa and Lesotho interviewed him on a regular basis.
Aaron Balfour Thoahlane (1924-2014)
An educator, author, amateur geologist and palaeontologist, AB Thoahlane was one of the stalwarts who kept Morija Museum alive during the 1970s and then persevered in efforts to realise the construction of permanent facilities during the 1980s. As Board Chairperson, his encouragement and support were instrumental in the development of programs centred on living culture, laying the basis for larger initiatives such as the Morija Arts & Cultural Festival.
Dr Francois Ellenberger (1915-2000)
Francois (together with his brother Paul) imagined and carried to completion the formal establishment of a museum at Morija during 1955/56. It was at this time that Francois led a French scientific team to study dinosaur fossils at Maphutseng. Through consultations with the Queen Regent ‘Mantšebo Seeiso, it was decided that the museum should be located at Morija, instead of Thaba-Bosiu or Maseru, and thus a small museum was inaugurated in August 1956 at Morija. Francois then returned to France while Paul continued to contribute to the Museum Commission, as well as to re-establish exhibits at the famous Masitise Cave House.
Stephen Gill 1955 – present
A naturalized citizen of Lesotho, Steve arrived in 1979 as a volunteer teacher and was placed deep in the mountains at Mapholaneng. After 10 years of service there, he was called to help re-open the now combined Morija Museum & Archives as its first full-time Curator in 1989. It was his privilege to learn from the older stalwarts as well as work with a growing team of staff, volunteers, interns and apprentices on many initiatives, especially in research and publishing, the Morija Arts & Cultural Festival, consultancy work, projects and partnership development, and the Seriti sa Makhoarane Heritage Tourism Initiative. Mr Gill currently serves as Curator Emeritus.
Pusetso Nyabela 1970 to present
After studies in French and History, Pusetso joined Morija Museum in 1996 as Deputy Curator. He has been integral to most of the developments at MMA since then, in particular, its educational programs, the annual Morija Arts & Cultural Festival, the nation-wide School Cultural Competitions, the research for new exhibitions at Masitise Cave House, and many heritage consultancies, especially as team leader (intangible heritage) at the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II Polihali Dam. He too has been active in the Seriti sa Makhoarane project and serves as lead researcher in the Sound Connects Project. Mr. Nyabela has taken over as the Acting Curator in 2022.