#56DaysofAfrica- Eswatini

"the land of the Swazis"

On today's edition of #56DaysofAfrica, we will be highlighting Eswatini.


Eswatini, officially Kingdom of Eswatini, Swati Umbuso weSwatini, previously known as the Kingdom of Swaziland is the last absolute monarchy in Africa. The Swazis established their kingdom in the mid-18th century under the leadership of Ngwane III. The country and the Swazi take their names from Mswati II, the 19th-century king under whose rule Swazi territory was expanded and unified; the present boundaries were drawn up in 1881 in the midst of the Scramble for Africa. After the Second Boer War, the kingdom, under the name of Swaziland, was a British protectorate from 1903 until it regained its independence on 6 September 1968.


Kingdom of Eswatini

In April 2018, the official name was changed from the Kingdom of Swaziland to the Kingdom of Eswatini, mirroring the name commonly used in Swazi. During Golden Jubilee celebrations, King Mswati III announced the name change. Eswatini means "place of the Swazi" in the Swazi language — effectively the same meaning as its predecessor, except without relying on the mashup of Swazi and English that composes the name Swaziland.

The king made his declaration to a crowded stadium in Manzini, noting the name change is intended to shed vestiges of the country's colonial past. For much of the 20th century, this landlocked nation was under British administration, only gaining its independence in a nonviolent transfer of power in 1968.


For the Culture

The capital of Eswatini is Mbabane which is located on the Mbabane River and its tributary the Polinjane River in the Mdimba Mountains. It is the second-largest city in the country. The city’s name comes from Chief Mbabane Kunene.

Mbabane

The Swazi nation is an amalgamation of more than 70 clans. Their chiefs form the traditional hierarchy under the ngwenyama and ndlovukazi. The language is siSwati, which is akin to Zulu, though it shares official status with English, which is in fact used generally for official written communication.

The most important cultural event in Eswatini is the Incwala ceremony. It is held on the fourth day after the full moon nearest the longest day, 21 December. 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. When there is no king, there is no Incwala. Every Swazi may take part in the public parts of the Incwala. The climax of the event is the fourth day of the Big Incwala. The key figures are the King, Queen Mother, royal wives and children, the royal governors (indunas), the chiefs, the regiments, and the "bemanti" or "water people".


Swazi cuisine

Traditional Swazi food depends on the season and climate. The staple diet of Eswatini is maize, or mealie meal (pap), and is consumed widely with beef, goat or mutton. Emasi or sour milk is a delicacy in Eswatini. It’s made from raw cow’s milk, which is fermented and then strained to remove the whey. This is also used to make two popular dishes: ‘emasi etinkhobe temmbila’ (ground mealies mixed with sour milk) and ‘emasi emabele’ (ground sorghum mixed with sour milk). Sishwala is a thick porridge made from sugar beans and maize meal. While the porridge itself is somewhat bland, it’s normally served with meat stew or vegetables. There are many different variations: Incwancwa is a sour porridge made of fermented mealie meal, siphuphe setindlubu is a thick porridge made from ashedgroundnuts, siphuphe semabhontjisi is a thick porridge made of mashed beans, and sidvudvu is porridge made of pumpkin mixed with mealie meal.

For those who know of South African biltong, umncweba will seem familiar. This is dried, uncooked meat (made with various types of meat) that’s often marinated in vinegar and spices and eaten as a snack. Umkhunsu is similar to umncweba, but the meat has been cooked before being dried. Another dish, Umbidvo wetintsanga is made from cooked pumpkin leaves mixed with peanuts. Because of their prickly texture, pumpkin tops can require a fair amount of preparation before cooking but the result – a mild but tasty leafy stew – is definitely worth the effort. A traditional Swazi meal, Tahragout is a meat stew, usually made with goat that's been cooked slowly with a variety of vegetables, kawakawa (bush basil) and dried horopito (pepperwood leaves).


Notable Landmarks

This tiny nation packs an extraordinary variety of rich landmarks. Eswatini is home to magnificent mountain scenery with rivers, waterfalls and gorges; unique rock formations which are among the world’s most ancient; lush and fertile valleys, plus typical African bush. From west to east, Eswatini moves from mountainous Highveld, through Middleveld to Lowveld, and then rises again to the Lubombo mountains.

Ngwenya Mine & Lion Cavern is Eswatini’s second-highest mountain, looming above the Ngwenya border post. On its southern flank is the oldest mine in the world – an iron ore mine dated by archaeologists to at least 43,000 years ago. The mineral mined here was specularite, an ore with a glittering sheen that was traditionally worn by chiefs as body paint for ceremonial occasions. Sibebe Rock is a massive granite dome hulking over the surrounding countryside. It's the world's second-largest monolith, after Australia's Uluru.


With its historical richness, the land of the Swazis is a sight to see and to learn from. We cannot wait to continue to share more information about Eswatini with you all.

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"We Are The Ones We've Been Waiting For"

Afrika Matters Initiative NPC 2018/033657/08