You can find the image of this traditional straw hat on the Lesotho flag and on Lesotho license plates – that’s how important it is for the local culture. It’s the national symbol of Lesotho and not just a piece of clothing. The locals even display it in their homes to show their connection with the national culture and indigenous religion. The Lesotho people believe that a mokorotlo protects them from evil.
A mokorotlo is produced by hand from an indigenous grass called “mosea” or “leholi”.
The origins of Lesotho mokorotlo hat are uncertain. A hat with a similar shape, called a “toedang”, was commonly worn by Cape Malays, who are descendants of slaves from the East Indies. Some scholars suggest that the Sotho people might have adopted the mokorotlo after seeing these hats, although this theory lacks a reliable source.
Image of mokorotlo hat on the Lesotho flag
The mokorotlo hat became popular in the early 20th century, when chiefs started wearing it to village gatherings known as “Pitso”, and even composed a song called "Mokorotlo" to win support from the attendees. Initially, the hat was worn exclusively by men, but in the 1950s, new designs were created for women.
The Lesotho people so highly estimate this folk headpiece that they even display it in their homes to show their connection with the national culture and indigenous religion called “Balimo”. The hat is considered to be a protective talisman. So, that’s by far not just a unique accessory but something much, much more.
Mokorotlo straw hat of Basotho people. You can see how intricate the design is. The photo by Vanellus Foto is from Wikipedia.org