One of my favourite photographs that I took during my last fieldtrip is the following:
It shows a mother and a daughter carrying large bundles of dried grass. The grass will be used to thatch a house and it is therefore called “house grass” (keettsi maata).
Nowadays more and more houses in Baskeet are built rectangular (rather than round) and covered with an iron sheet roof (rather than grass). Iron sheets have become easily available to a fairly cheap price. But it is not only the availability and durability of corrugated iron sheets that makes people opt for a rectangular house type. The main reason why people give up building thatched houses is the scarcity of grass in the area. Due to the expansion of grazing and agricultural land, “house grass” of good quality is no longer easily available, or only available for a very high price.
Consequently, it is likely that people carrying “house grass” will become a rare sight in the future. With the disappearance of the “house grass”, the skills to thatch houses will be lost and, of course, the thatching vocabulary. Which brings me back to my work on the dictionary …
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