Litema is an indigenous mural art practiced by women in Lesotho and the Free State province in South Africa by beautifying freshly plastered homestead walls practiced by multiple sub-cultures of the Bantu and Nguni speaking ethnic groups throughout Africa. Basotho mural artists acknowledge their natural and modern environments whilst also celebrating seasonal, commemorative events and have since time immemorial they continued to capture this artistic expression by evolving the patterns through millennia. Litema is essentially what you see when the fields are ploughed and multitudes of fields organically join together to form patterns of a geometric nature; this is ideally what the Motaki use as an inspiration for their plastering and mural artistry. This art has not only been used as a beautiful aesthetic, but it also has cultural significance and connotations when applied in a particular design or season.
While it seems that this whole concept is slowly dying out, there have been some modern artists, brands, and places who have applied it in their respective fields with more advanced or present-time techniques. One of the easily noticeable artists making use of the Litema geometric patterns is Baba Tjeko, He has played a huge part in preserving this dying art through his illustrations and paintings. Through his artworks he has managed to work on projects with Channel 0 on visual activations for events such as Music is King, Barcadi Holiday Club and the AKA Orchestra. Beyond these milestones is one prominent artist, Dr. Esther Mahlangu who is globally acclaimed for her preservative art of the Ndebele style version of Litema with various international collaborations under her name. LITEMA is also apparent at Khubetsoana based food and lifestyle venue Backyard@Lynors. The outer walls of their establishment are decorated with Litema and graffiti which give out a pan African aesthetic to make guests feel at home.
A cultured clothing brand, Sqo emerged in 2015 and quickly cemented its place in the scene through its use of graphics that bears a resemblance to the Basotho culture and aesthetics. To keep up its cause, they released a range dubbed LITEMA in summer’19 which entirely focused on portraying patterns of the seasons and lifestyle. They believe this bold move is significant because it also contributes to preserving the aforementioned art. Sqo’s main reason for using LITEMA as an influence in this range is mainly to uphold their modus operandi of infusing the Mountain Kingdom customs with urban wear and embrace the ever-evolving culture.
Limited Sqo summer’19 release consisted of Apparel, Headwear and Accessories as anticipated. The apparel section included Mini Litema-Kupahead imprint on Crew-neck Fashion T-shirts in 2 colours; Black and white and, Litema retro Tank-top ideal in hot and vibrant summer days. The Headwear section consisted of Litema-Kupahead imprint on Nylon floppy bucket hats in black, white and mustard tailored by Ezi Wear. Nylon Strap-back caps in black, grey and pink. Mesh Flat Peak and Baseball Snapback by prime headwear manufacture Flex-fit. All accessorized with Litema bandana.
With this range doing amazingly and getting acclaim in the Mountain Kingdom, Sqo followed up with the Litema Trank Top in summer 2020. And in Autumn/Winter 2021 they released Black and Burgundy Litema Cuff Beanies along with heavy Litema Long-sleeve in Black and White colorways. Sqo always delivers the much-needed nostalgia of being exposed to the unfiltered culture of Basotho; an ever loud memoir of Mokhoa, Boleng le Bosebele.
For more information on any of the brands mentioned visit their Facebook and Instagram pages at BabaTjeko, Backyard Lynors and Sqo. Visit Shipa to shop the collection by Sqo.