A Piece of Blanket History Brought Back To Life

 

Gracing the walls of Aranda's factory foyer is a painting by Mr R.D. Shrubsole, designer of many of the original Victoria England blankets, which on its own has a wonderfully unique history.

During a procession through the British protected Basutoland, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen of England) instructed the Royal photographer to take a photograph of a Basotho man on the side of the road wearing the famous Victoria England blanket with the ‘Badges of the Brave’. in 1948, Shrubsole then created a massive painting, measuring 2 meters by 3 meters, using the photo as a reference, which incorporated the iconic Basotho designs and motifs, . For many years, it hung on the walls at Wormalds and Walker who originally produced the Victoria England blankets in England.

Frasers Limited, then sole distributors of the Victoria England blankets, persuaded them to send the painting to South Africa but when Frasers was absorbed by Metro Cash n Carry in the 1980's, the painting was sent to Lesotho. During a series of riots in Lesotho during the 80’s many stores were burnt down and the famous painting was badly damaged. For many years thereafter, with Frasers bankrupt, it lay neglected and abandoned. Through sheer good fortune, Tom Kritzinger, Aranda’s Head of Sales and Marketing, found the torn and tattered painting languishing in a warehouse in Maseru and took it back to Aranda, where the Basotho Heritage Blankets have been produced since the early 1990's.  It took restorers 9 long months to restore Shrubsole's painting to its original glory. Its gold gilt frame is a work of art in itself, fashioned out of one piece of wood with no joins, as was the custom at the time. 

This labour of love has helped to ensure that this iconic painting remains one of the prominent symbols of the long lasting heritage that is the Basotho blanket culture. 

Sean Shuter