In Southern Africa, between South Africa and Mozambique, lies the beautiful kingdom of Swaziland. This landlocked country of 17,360 square kilometers features scenic terrain which is mostly mountainous with moderately sloping, beautiful plains.
The legislative capital of Swaziland is Lobamba which is one of the traditional royal seats. The administrative capital is the nearby city of Mbabane, whereby Manzini is the business hub. siSwati and English are the official languages of Swaziland. SiSwati which is a Southern Bantu language and is a member of the Nguni subgroup.
The most common home style in Swaziland is the Nguni house which is a “bee-hive” like hut with thatch. Sotho huts, which have pointed, detachable roofs on walls of mud and wattle, are also found throughout Swaziland, the difference being that these huts have window frames and full doorways.
Traditionally, men and women cooperated in agriculture, though only men were responsible for plowing. Women receive gardens from their husbands, but the cultivation of cash crops involves both men and women. Herding is exclusively a male domain. Cattle have important economic and symbolic value in Swaziland.
Patriarchal is the traditional culture, within the homestead, the only females related by blood to the patriarch were minor children. Their economic value was measured in lobolo, which is the bride price, usually in the form of cattle. Sons are valued more highly than daughters.
Marriage in Swaziland is defined as the union of two families. Polygynous marriages were once common, but Christianity has spread throughout Swaziland and economic considerations have made them much more less common today.
In this African country, it is forbidden to get married to someone who is a member from the same clan. This practice extends and maintains social ties, subclans are occasionally created to facilitate marriage between members of the same clan.
Since traditional marriage is governed by uncodified law and custom, women’s rights are interpreted differently by different parties. Under civil law, a man is technically restricted to a single wife. In rural areas, patrilocal residence traditionally was the norm, and a homestead would include the headman, his wives, unmarried siblings, and married sons with their wives and kids.
It is tradition that only males can inherit, whereby the heir usually is not appointed until the father’s death. In traditional polygynous households, the main heir is rarely the oldest son. The rank of the mother, not the order of marriage, plays an important role in the selection of the main heir in Swaziland.
Every Swazi person bears the clan name of the father, which also serves as a surname. Women retain membership in their paternal clan, though it is normal for wives to use the husband’s clan name as a surname. Each clan consists of a number of lineages.
Christianity is the predominant religion in Swaziland. In addition to the traditional Western forms, there are numerous syncretist churches, and indigenous beliefs about the supernatural, particularly regarding ancestors, which are still important.
Many people consult tinyanga which are the traditional healers. These make use of natural medicine and ritual in their cures. There is a widespread belief in witchcraft and sorcery. The senior male in each family maintains communication with the ancestors.
Swazi people believe that the spirit of a person has a distinct existence in life. One’s social place is demonstrated through the elaborateness of funeral rituals. A head of household is buried at the sibaya whereby his widow shaves her head and undertakes a long period of mourning.
Most of the Swazi participants in the Traditional Reed Dance are all young maidens from every part of the country who gather to take part, most of them being teenagers. This dance usually takes place in late August or early September. The main reason for this dance is for the maidens to pay respect to the Queen Mother in the kingdom of Swaziland. At the ceremony, the ladies wear short beaded skirts with ankle bracelets and jewelery with colorful sashes.
Incwala or Kingship Ceremony is the most honorable event in the kingdom of Swaziland every year. This Ceremony takes place during December/January. The King and thousands of young men and warriors take part in various rituals, dances and songs. The ritual begins with a journey by the “Bemanti” (people of the water), who go to the Indian Ocean to collect water and on their return to the royal kraal, the “Little Incwala” begins, preceding the full moon. Young men collect the sacred branches of the “lusekwane” shrub, a species of acacia.
On their third day, the young men ritually slaughter a bull. On the fourth day is the termination of the Ncwala when the king in full ceremonial dress joins his warriors in the traditional dance. The king of Swaziland then eats the first fruit of the season after further rituals at his special hut.
This article was a guest post written by Ryan Mackie of South African Hotels.com who specialize in Swaziland accommodation and South Africa.