History & Strategic Plan
Morija Museum & Archives is an integral outgrowth of the work of the French Protestant missionaries who established Morija in 1833 at the invitation of Moshoeshoe the Great, the founder of Lesotho/the Basotho nation. Moshoeshoe viewed these “teachers of peace” as partners in nation-building. Wide-ranging collaboration took place, and through a selective process of adoption and adaptation, a new culture emerged in Lesotho, preserving as well as transforming the older traditions and inheritance.
This interplay can be seen in the work of Thomas Mofolo, a staff member at the Morija Sesuto Book Depot and teacher at Morija, who was the first black African to write a novel in 1906, as well as JP Mohapeloa, a compositor at Morija Printing Works, who became Lesotho’s greatest composer. His choral music is performed across Southern Africa. Like Mofolo, his compositions both preserve and transform the natural sounds, cadences, and rhythms of Lesotho in an evolving harmony that is both ancient and contemporary and always open to new interpretation.
Documentation (letters, books, journals, maps, photographs) of these and other broad-ranging developments regarding Lesotho/the Basotho accumulated over the decades and certain missionaries and local leaders also began to collect, preserve and display examples of local material culture and historical artefacts, as well as fossils, together with geological and scientific specimens.
By the mid-1950s stronger efforts were made to consolidate the work of earlier generations, and this led to the founding of “The Basutoland Museum – Morija Section” in August 1956. It was anticipated that similar efforts would bear fruit at Maseru and Thaba-Bosiu. At the same time, the archival collections were given a new lease on life with the construction of a new building.
Over the next three decades, the work of the Museum and Archives was nurtured and kept alive mainly through the efforts of Kemuel Matsoso Nts’ihlele, the Museum Caretaker who instilled a deep love of culture and history in those who visited, Abel Balfour Thoahlane, long-serving Museum Board Chairperson who helped to animate a number of larger developments, and Rev. Albert Brutsch, the devoted Archivist who collected a great deal of material and helped so many researchers over the years.
During the 1980s, efforts to construct larger permanent facilities for the Museum and Archives succeeded when Queen ‘Mamohato persuaded the Ford Foundation to assist, followed shortly thereafter by further pledges of support from the Netherlands-Lesotho Foundation and Goldfields South Africa. Phase I was completed in 1988, a full-time Curator (Stephen Gill) was employed under a teaching grant from the Ministry of Education in 1989, and the collections were re-organised and opened to the public in September 1989.
Over the past 30 years, great changes have taken place thanks to support from many quarters, the most significant being that of the Ministry of Tourism, Environment & Culture which, since 1996, has provided annual grants to employ an increasing number of staff. As a result, programmes have gradually expanded and developed to the point where these are impacting more broadly across Lesotho.
Efforts are now underway to further consolidate and improve these programmes, as well as ensure that the now overly-crowded facilities are expanded to cater to current requirements as well as for future growth.