It’s Day 83 of the South African lockdown. In celebration of this entirely unremarkable and insanely high number, I bought myself a Basotho blanket.

Trixie on Heather's Basotho blanket
Trixie tests out my new Basotho blanket.

I am not a therapy shopper; I generally don’t self-soothe through buying stuff. I also don’t have much spare cash at the moment. But for the past several weeks, as the lockdown drags on and the temperatures dip ever lower, my instincts have been driving me to buy a Basotho blanket.

Those inner voices reached a crescendo yesterday — the coldest day in Joburg since August 2012 — when I woke up feeling like I simply must get into my car and drive the 45 minutes to Aranda Textiles in Randfontein. But alas, yesterday was a public holiday and the blanket factory was closed. So today was the day.

I have blogged about Basotho blankets more than once (see here and here), and my post about a previous visit to Aranda Textiles — where all Basotho blankets are manufactured — is one of my most popular of all time. (Thanks to Black Panther, Basotho blankets became world-famous in 2017. People who google the blankets, which are nearly impossible to find outside Southern Africa, often find 2Summers.)

Heather wearing her Basotho blanket
Wearing my first Basotho blanket, bought in December 2013 at the Blanket Shop in Clarens. Sadly this wonderful shop has since closed.

I love these blankets. I love their colors. I love their designs. I love their cultural significance and the centuries of stories that surround them. And yet I only had one Basotho blanket of my own. I’d been craving a second for ages, as I really need one for the couch and another for the bed.

I dragged myself out of the house this morning, cursing the cold, and made the long, slow, 45-minute drive west to Randfontein. I had forgotten how tiny and unassuming the Aranda factory showroom entrance is, and freaked out for a second when I thought it might be closed. It wasn’t.

Temperature taken, hands thoroughly sanitized, I waded into the blanket wonderland.

Inside the Aranda showroom
Walking into this room made me so happy.

Aranda manufactures and sells traditional Basotho blankets in a number of different price ranges and designs, as well as traditional Ndebele blankets and many other types of blankets. I wandered giddily up and down the rows — admiring new colors and patterns I’d never seen before — shooting pictures, smiling at other customers, stopping to look at various blankets but not sure what to focus on.

Aranda showroom
Photographing Basotho blankets
Everyone in the showroom was taking pictures of the different blankets and then calling or texting people, clearly struggling (as I was) to decide which blankets to buy.

Charlene, a sales lady in a pretty checked face mask, saw I needed help. She walked around with me, unfolding various blankets and making recommendations. I asked her about the blanket design with a spiral aloe in the middle, which I’d been eyeing online before I came. Charlene unfolded a dazzling blue and yellow version of that one, holding it up for me to admire.

A top contender.

I thought I would buy the aloe blanket. Until suddenly, out of nowhere, the lion caught my eye.

Lion Basotho blanket
The lion blanket.

I hadn’t planned on buying a yellow and brown blanket. But these lions spoke to me. The center of the blanket had a Basotho hat and the word “Bataung”, which I later learned is the name of a Sotho tribe and means “People of a place of lions”.

“I’m going to take this one,” I heard myself telling Charlene. And that’s what I did.

A top-of-the line Basotho blanket, made with 90% virgin lamb’s wool, costs R769 (about $45). Not a bad investment for a super-warm, super-soft blanket that will last a lifetime. There are also a few lower-cost versions, the least expensive of which is still quite sturdy and costs only R167 (about $10). I picked up four of those — one from me and three on behalf of my friend Laurice — for a blanket drive run by my friend Kennedy.

I couldn’t wait to get my new blanket home.

Heather and her Basotho blanket
Unfortunately I only realized later that I was holding up the wrong side of the blanket (hence the backwards lettering). Photo shot by my friend Michelle, whose power has been out for two days and is using my house as a home office. Photobomb by Trixie, who somehow managed to make her way into every blanket photo.
And another one.

I love my new blanket and I’m wrapped up in it as I type. Retail therapy worked this time.

Today’s Worthy Cause

Kennedy is still collecting blankets for the homeless — there is no more important cause right now in this painfully cold weather. If you live in Joburg and would like to donate a blanket, I suggest connecting with Microadventure Tours on Facebook. If you’d like to donate from overseas, please contact me.

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