Girl & boy outside hut0001 2

Diana Newton
Siblings, 1977
Pen and gouache
(8.3 x 11.7 inches)
(21 x 29.7 cm)

Most of my Botswana sketches and paintings were done in Gabane. For a newcomer to Africa and an architecture school graduate, it was always exhilarating to visit this beautiful, tidy, uncluttered village (located 10 miles, or 15 km, west of the capital, Gaborone). Each homestead, or family compound, typically consists of several circular, thatched buildings ("rondavels"), a granary or two, a goat or fowl enclosure, and a pit latrine. Building a rondavel is truly a team effort. Women shape the walls using a mixture of soil, cattle dung, and water. They also create the (interior and exterior) mud floors. Men are responsible for erecting the posts and roof structure. Thatchers are traditionally male, but thatching is a skilled job, requiring many helpers. One assistant stands inside the hut on a ladder, passing the thatching needle and twine back to the thatcher positioned on the roof. Other family members or neighbors, often women and children, sit on the ground where they gather the thatch into bundles of the right size before handing them up to the thatcher. Little did I know when I drew these two siblings playing on a sunny afternoon that, only a few years later, I would be living in a homestead much like theirs, and feeling deeply grateful for the high quality of my village life.