Old Kanye, 83 km southwest of Gaborone, is a ‘must visit area.’ This is the seat of Bangwaketse and the continuously occupied capital village in Botswana. Surrounded by hills and rock outcrops, scenic Kanye (population 45,000) is where modern and old structures sit side by side. You can stay over at Motse Lodge, a modern facility reflecting traditional architecture, walk through the stunning Kanye Gorge, ascend to the Polokwe viewpoint, and go to the main Kgotla, where you can see old colonial architecture and the statue of legendary Kgosi Bathoen II (reigned 1928-1969). If you begin your journey at the main Kgotla (see the Google map for location below), people there will help you find your way around town.
The Main Kgotla
Kanye’s main kgotla (village meeting place or a customary court), located atop Ntsweng hill, is full of interesting historical buildings, including the former residence of Kgosi Bathoen I (1892), the original Tribal offices built in 1914 by Seepapitso III, and nearby, the former residence of the late Kgosi Bathoen II.
A long, riverine gorge which starts at about 300m south east of Seepapitso Secondary School, this scenic watercourse attracts a variety of bird species. One of the interesting stories about the Gorge is that around 1830, some groups of Bangwaketse hid in the gorge when Mzilikazi’s Amandebele attacked Kanye.
The First Christian Church in Kanye
Kanye’s first Christian church was built at this site by the Bangwaketse people in 1884. Following a fire, this current structure was erected in 1896 and served as a school and later a museum. It was renovated and rededicated as a church by the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa between 1987 and 1990. The interior of the church is decorated with fantastic murals by local artist Speedo Gaotlhalelwe.
Kgosi Bathoen II Statue
Kgosi Bathoen II was born in 1908 and ruled the Bangwaketse from 1928 to 1969 when he abdicated his throne to enter national politics. Kgosi Bathoen was at the center of all major events in Kanye during his reign, and played a leading role in the construction of Mmakgodumo Dam.
Since 2013, with one exception, the Bathoen Trust has held an annual cultural festival at the Mmakgodumo Dam (aka Bathoen II Dam Nature Sanctuary), between August and October. Music, dance, crafts, traditional food and live entertainment are featured.
The Bangwaketse, originally from east of the Ngotwane River, entered Botswana around AD. 1600 and originally settled with Bakwena west of Molepolole. Relations between the two groups became strained and resulted in a permanent split. Bangwaketse resettled just south of Kgale Hill (Gaborone) under the leadership of Mongala, before moving near Lobatse. After Mongala’s son Moleta became kgosi, the Ngwaketse began to expand and conquer most of southern Botswana. About 1790, under Moleta’s son Makaba II, the Kanye area became a major settlement. The stone walls of other capitals, such as Makolontwane, 9 kms east of Kanye, near Moshana Village, can still be seen. Bangwaketse were later joined by groups of Bakgatla Mmanaana and Barolong. After Makaba’s death in 1824, the Bangwaketse split into several groups with some fleeing into the Kalahari. Kanye was deserted until 1852, until two groups of Bangwaketse, one under Senthufe, the other by Segotshane, reunited and settled at Kanye, which has remained the capital of the Bangwaketse ever since. Today Kanye is the longest continuously occupied of all the capital villages. It has continued to grow during the reigns of Gaseitsiwe, Bathoen, Seepapitso III, Bathoen II, and the current kgosi, Malope.