The homestead, a traditional beehive house covered with dried grass, is the most important Swazi social unit. Each woman has her own hut and yard surrounded by reed fences in a polygamous household. Sleeping, cooking, and storage are all divided into three buildings (brewing beer). There are additional buildings used as bachelors’ quarters and guest accommodations on bigger homesteads.
The cow byre, a circular area surrounded by huge logs interspersed with branches, is the heart of the traditional farmhouse. As a repository of riches and a symbol of status, the cow byre has both ceremonial and utilitarian importance. It has grain pits that are sealed. The large cottage in front of the cow byre is inhabited by the headman’s mother.
The headman is in charge of everything on the farm, and he is often polygamous. He leads by example and counsels his wife on all domestic matters, as well as ensuring the family’s overall survival. He also spends time socializing with the young boys, many of whom are his kids or close relatives, and giving them advice on what it means to grow up and become a man.
The Sangoma is a traditional diviner who is selected by the family’s ancestors. The Sangoma’s training is known as “kwetfwasa.” A graduation ceremony is held at the conclusion of the course, when all of the local sangoma gather for eating and dancing. The diviner is consulted for a variety of purposes, including determining the cause of illness or death. His diagnosis is based on “kubhula,” a trance-based method of communicating with natural abilities. The bone throwing ability (“kushaya ematsambo”) is utilized by the Inyanga (a medical and pharmaceutical expert in western terminology) to identify the source of the illness.
The Incwala ritual is Swaziland’s most significant cultural event. It takes place on the fourth day following the full moon closest to the longest day of the year, which is December 21. The King’s taste of the fresh crop is just one element of Incwala’s lengthy spectacle, which is frequently translated as ‘first fruits ritual.’ Incwala is best translated as ‘Kingship Ceremony,’ since there is no Incwala without a king. Any other individual who holds an Incwala is committing high treason.
Every Swazi is welcome to participate in the Incwala’s public areas. The fourth day of the Big Incwala marks the event’s culmination. The King, Queen Mother, royal spouses and children, royal governors (indunas), chiefs, regiments, and the “bemanti” or “water people” are all important characters.
The annual Umhlanga Reed Dance is Swaziland’s most well-known cultural event. Girls cut reeds and give them to the queen mother before dancing during the eight-day event. (There isn’t a competition in the traditional sense.) It is completed at the end of August or the beginning of September. Only childless and unmarried females are eligible to participate. The ceremony’s goals are to maintain girls’ virginity, provide tribute labor for the Queen mother, and promote unity via teamwork. The royal family selects a commoner maiden as the girls’ “induna” (captain), and she announces the ceremony’s dates over the radio. She will be a skilled dancer who is also well-versed in royal etiquette. Her counterpart will be one of the King’s daughters.
Today’s Reed Dance is a development of the traditional “umchwasho” custom, rather than an ancient ritual. All young girls in “umchwasho” were assigned to a female age group. If a girl got pregnant outside of marriage, her family had to pay the local chief a fee of one cow. When the girls were of marriageable age, they would do labor duty for the Queen Mother, which would be followed by dancing and feasting. Until August 19, 2005, the nation was subjected to the “umchwasho” chastity ritual.
Swaziland is also well-known for its robust handicrafts sector. Swaziland’s formalized handmade companies employ approximately 2,500 people, the majority of whom are women (per TechnoServe Swaziland Handcrafts Impact Study,” February 2011). The items are one-of-a-kind and represent Swaziland’s culture, ranging from kitchenware to creative décor to intricate glass, stone, and wood artwork.