Morija is a a village in south-western Lesotho, lying midway between Maseru and Mafeteng. (See maps.) Mohapeloa’s songs refer to towns, villages and natural beauty spots all over Lesotho, but they are most closely associated with the village where he lived for most of his life. (See Mohapeloa: Biography.)
In A Guide to Morija (1995), historian Stephen Gill writes that the Makhoarane plateau above the village was “first settled by Bushmen hunter gatherers many thousands of years ago”. In the seventeenth century the Mapolane and Maphetla arrived from the east, followed by the Bafokeng, a “pioneer Sotho group”. Shortly afterwards, Bakoena chief Mohlomi is “said to have been the first chief to form a confederation of Sotho peoples” in the region. After the 1820s, Chief Moshoeshoe “united a number of diverse Sotho abnd Nguni clans to form the Basotho nation”. In 1833, Moshoeshoe was visited by three members of the Parish Evangelical Missionary Society (PEMS), and he allowed them to settle at the foot of the Makhoarane.
Morija lying at the foot of the Makhoarane plateau
They named the place ‘Morija’ after the Biblical name ‘Moriah’, which means ‘God will provide’. During the 19th century PEMS built Morija into the major mission centre of Lesotho, with a church, schools, training college, theological college, printing press (founded in 1841), book shop, and hospital, reaching into the whole country with a “network of outstations equipped with chapels and schools” (Gill 1995). It is still a thriving educational and publishing centre and still a rural village, far smaller than the capital of Lesotho, Maseru, 41 kms to the north.