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Country Spotlight – Swaziland

In the Country Spotlight segment, we highlight an African nation every week, with interesting facts and figures

This week it’s the turn of….Swaziland!

DID YOU KNOW?….

  • The country of Swaziland and its people (the Swazi) take their names from Mswati II, the 19th-century king under whose rule Swazi territory was expanded and unified
  • At no more than 200 kilometres (120 mi) north to south and 130 kilometres (81 mi) east to west, Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in Africa
  • The primary national symbol is the monarchy. It is an absolute monarchy, currently ruled by Ngwenyama (“King”) Mswati III. He is head of state and appoints the country’s prime ministers and a number of representatives of both chambers (Senate and House of Assembly) in the country’s parliament.

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  • In Swaziland’s flag, the red stands for past battles, the blue for peace and stability, and the yellow for the resources of Swaziland. The central focus of the flag is a Nguni shield, an ox hide combat shield from the traditional Swazi Emasotsha Regiment, laid horizontally. The shield is reinforced by a staff from which hangs injobo tassels – bunches of feathers of the widowbird and the lourie. These feathers are used only by the king. Above the staff are two assegais-local spears, symbolizing protection from the country’s enemies. Its colour is meant to show that white and black people live in peaceful coexistence in Swaziland. 

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  • The coat of arms of Swaziland depicts various symbols for traditional Swaziland culture. The lion represents the King and the elephant represents the Queen-mother. They support a traditional Nguni shield which represents “protection”. Above the shield is the king’s lidlabe, or crown of feathers, normally worn during incwala (the festival of the harvest). On a banner below the shield is the Swaziland national motto, Siyinqaba, meaning, “We are the fortress”.

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  • The symbolic relationship between the king and his people is evident at the incwala, the most sacred ceremony, which may not be held when there is no king. The full ritual, which takes several weeks, symbolizes the acceptance of traditional rulers, the unity of the state, the agricultural cycle, fertility, and potency. Incwala is often translated in English as ‘first fruits ceremony‘, but the King’s tasting of the new harvest is only one aspect among many in this long pageant. Incwala is best translated as ‘Kingship Ceremony’

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  • Swaziland’s most well-known cultural event is the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance. In the eight-day ceremony, girls cut reeds and present them to the queen mother and then dance. Only childless, unmarried girls can take part. The aims of the ceremony are to preserve girls’ chastity, provide tribute labour for the Queen mother, and to encourage solidarity by working together.

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  • Swaziland is also known for a strong presence in the handcrafts industry. The formalised handcraft businesses of Swaziland employ over 2,500 people, many of whom are women. The products are unique and reflect the culture of Swaziland, ranging from housewares, to artistic decorations, to complex glass, stone, or wood artwork.

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  • Exports of soft drink concentrate, sugar, and wood pulp are sources of hard currency; most of these products go to South Africa. The major agricultural products are sugarcane, cotton, maize, tobacco, rice, citrus fruits, pineapples, corn, sorghum, and peanuts.
  • The principal Swazi social unit is the homestead, a traditional beehive hut thatched with dry grass. There are three structures for sleeping, cooking, and storage (brewing beer).  Central to the traditional homestead is the cattle byre, or kraal, a circular area enclosed by large logs inter-spaced with branches. The cattle byre has ritual as well as practical significance as a store of wealth and symbol of prestige.

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  • The music of Swaziland is composed of both ethnic Swazi music and varieties of folk music as well as modern genres such as rock, pop and hip hop, which has been popular in Swaziland since the 1990s, headed by bands such as Vamoose. Traditional instruments used include: the kudu horn, calabash, rattles, makeyana and reed flute.

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  • Football is the top sport in Swaziland. The Sihlangu Semnikati, the national football team of Swaziland, has not made much of a dent in the international stage. This however never dampens the country’s love of the sport.

Mthunzi Mkhontfo of Swaziland celebrates his goal with teammates during the 2015 Cosafa Cup match between Lesotho and Swaziland at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg on the 20 May 2015 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

  • Golfing in Swaziland is very popular because they have a good number of courses including the Royal Swazi Spa Golf Club as well as the Nkonyeni Golf Estate, two of the best championship-standard 18-hole courses in Africa.

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  • Sibebe Rock is a granite mountain in Swaziland, located 10 km from the capital city Mbabane. It is the second-largest monolith in the world and the largest exposed granite pluton, rising 350m above the valley of the Mbuluzi River. It is also known as ‘Bald Rock’

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  • The Hlane (“Wilderness”) Game Sanctuary is home to the largest herds of game in the country and is one of the few places in Swaziland where visitors have a chance of seeing lion, elephant, and rhino

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  • The small and modest National Museum in Lobamba hosts fascinating exhibits on the history, culture, and nature of Swaziland. The displays include examples of traditional dress with explanations of the significance of each piece as well as a few exhibits on the native wildlife.

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That’s it for this edition of Country Spotlight featuring Swaziland!

Join us again next week for our next spotlight

 See you then!

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