I travelled to Swaziland in 2014.
One of the main traditions among the Swazi people is dance.*
Incwala, which means first fruits, is probably the most important and significant of the two kinds of dances.*
The third day of Incwala sees the men slaughter a bull with the fourth day welcoming the arrival of the King who adorns his traditional dress and joins in on dances with the other men before returning to his hut to enjoy the first fruit of the season.*
Umhlanga attracts thousands from near and far and once the entire group has concluded dancing and singing, different villages take centre stage and put on a display as a sign of respect for the Queen mother.*
The King will usually pick his new wife from the crowd of dancers during Umhlanga.*
The necklace is worn for two years, and during this time he girls are not allowed to be courted.*
Different Swazi villages are distinguishable by their beaded outfits and jewellery.*
Mantenga Falls is in the Ezulwini Valley near Lobamba.
Dance is embedded in Swaziland's culture. The people of Swaziland use song and dance as a prominent part of their religious worship as well as cultural events. Specific dances are meant to be performed at specific events, and entire festivals are designed around dances. Most events and celebrations end with a dance "battle" between groups of men.
The Sibhaca dance is performed by the men of Swaziland. Men adorn colourful costumes and use large drums to perform this strenuous routine that can last up to two hours. It is the warrior's dance, and steps such as foot stomps and high kicks are performed to be indicative of a fight. On the last beat of the Sibhaca dance, the dancers fall to the ground, signifying the fate they wish upon their enemies.
Another important dance performed by the people of Swaziland is the Reed Dance, or Umhlanga. This dance is incorporated into an eight day festival, and is performed by women. Unmarried and childless young Swazi women dance in a group for the king while carrying reeds up to the palace. This festival of the Reed Dance is performed every year, and thousands of women participate.
Dancing plays a prominent role in Swaziland as men gather at the Royal Kraal at Ludzidzini and dance for days.*
Umhlanga which translates to "Reed Dance" is one of the most colourful festivals where unbetrothed women pay homage to the King and Queen of Swaziland.*
Known to be the most honourable on the Swazi events calendar, the Incwala dates are determined by the phases of the moon and begins with a journey to the Indian Ocean to collect water.*
Other dances include the Sibhaca dance done by droves of men throughout the country at any opportunity.*
Umcwasho has not been performed for some time.*
After two years they go to the Royal Kraal for dancing and feasting.*
Nearly half the population belong to the Zion Apostolic Church. While traditional religion is not widely practised, Swazi traditional culture strongly and many ceremonies have religious significance.*
About 3km from Mantenga Lodge is the Swazi Cultural Village, with authentic beehive huts and cultural displays.*
In this episode, we explore the historic Mantenga Falls village of Swaziland. Based off the typical Southern African village, Mantenga Falls captures an authentic lifestyle, showing visitors what it was like to live in Swaziland during the time that they were used. Huts thatched with grass sit scattered throughout the village protected by reed fences. Each family had a separate hut for sleeping, cooking and storage. The village Inyanga was a man who possessed supernatural powers. A type of Diviner, the Inyanga were chosen by family ancestors, and held the skill of bone throwing. They were medical specialists, and had the ability to determine causes of sickness.
Swaziland is one of the smallest African countries and is the last absolute monarchy in Africa. Each year, an eight day festival called Umhlanga is held, and unmarried and childless women perform a "Reed Dance" for the King and his family. Unmarried daughters of the King perform the Reed Dance as well, carrying reeds along with the other young women up to the royal palace as a gift.
There are two main kinds of dances, each done by men and women respectfully and done at most of the celebrations and gathering throughout the year, but predominately at the two most popular events: Incwala in December and Umhlanga in August.*
Normally done bare-breasted, the event is know to attract over 80,000 virgins from around the country.*
Even the King's daughters are involved in Umhlanga and are distinguishable by the bright red feathers they wear in their hair.*
The Sibhaca is a more traditional dance seen at all the various tourist attractions throughout this culturally rich country.*
Young men wear a necklace of beads from which a long wooden tassel (the umcwasho) is suspended.*
At the end of the dance the uncwasho, now a bad omen, was traditionally thrown at a female elder who could no longer bear children.*
The kingdom of Swaziland, one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies, is known for its wilderness reserves and festivals showcasing traditional Swazi culture.
Situated in South Africa, Swaziland is small and personable, but boasts a huge checklist for any visitor.
The royal valley begins just outside Mbabane and extends down past Lobamba village, 18km away. Most of the area's attractions are near Lombamba.*
In collaboration with French association "Les Grandes Personnes", a workshop has been financed by Designing Hope to train volunteers from PHILANI's support group in the making of giant puppets to be used in HIV AIDS awareness plays in rural areas.
*These captions are from South Africa -- Lonely Planet's travel guide.