Free State NBG: Traditional Huts

Basotho Hut

Traditional Basotho huts have thatched roofs, which have a cooling effect on the house. The grass used in the construction of the Basotho hut is a species of Hyparrhenia and is indigenous to the Free State.

A mixture of cow dung and mud is applied in a thick layer to the walls of the hut. It is a robust medium which insulates very effectively against cold and heat.


The walls are strengthened inside by gum tree poles. The rim of the hut is a useful place to put items such as pots. It also provides an excellent shaded seat - try sitting on it when you leave the hut.

The fireplace (o leifo in seSotho) is often used for burning medicine that needs to be inhaled.

Inside the Basotho hut there is a display table of dry medicinal plants and other items used in Basotho culture.

The Hartbeeshuisie

The distinctive sloping walls of the Hartbeeshuisie are made from reeds. These are covered with a layer of mud and cow dung mixed together. This medium is very strong and weather-proof.

Haartebees huis

The name Hartbeeshuisie probably comes from the Afrikaans term for the hard reeds used for the hut walls - harde biesies. An alternative explanation for the name Hartbeeshuisie is that from a distance, these structures look like hartebeest - a type of antelope common in this region during Afrikaaner settler (Voortrekker) period.

The house is also thatched with a species of Hyparrhenia. These houses were popular during the 1830s, when Voortrekkers moved up from the Cape and settled in the Free State.

An engraved plaque in honour of former Curator of the Free State NBG, Amadeus Oupa Mogale, set on the wall of the Hartbeeshuisie, also forms part of this section of the garden, along with a bench and a bin donated to the Garden by his family.

Last updated on 06 April 2016
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