Swaziland, near Barberton, Mpumalanga, South Africa
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Barberton Manor Guest House

'The Gem of Barberton'

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Swaziland

Before the white settlers came, the De Kaap valley was virtually uninhabited in the summer months due to various diseases, such as malaria. The Swazi lived on the surrounding mountains.

The Swazi is part of the Nguni group and consists of three groups: viz the beSuthu sibbes, which is called emaKhandzambili and the Mdzabuko (original group).

The name Swazi has been derived from a former Paramount Chief, called Mswati or Mswazi.

When visitors arrive in Swaziland, endless questions arise concerning the culture and royal family structure.

In Swaziland no king can appoint his successor. Only the royal family decides which of the wives shall be "Great wife" and "Indlovukazi" (She-Elephant/ Queen Mother). The son of this "Great Wife" will automatically become the next king.

However, there are conditions to be fulfilledThe "Great Wife" must only have one son, be of good character and come from a 'good' family. She must not bear the maiden name of Nkhosi-Dlamini and she must not be a ritual wife (i.e. the eldest son is never the heir).

The crown prince can only be installed as king after the late kings wives have gone through a mourning period of at least two years.

A Swazi king's first two wives are chosen for him by the national councillors. These two have special functions in rituals and their sons can never claim kingship. The first wife must be a member of the Matsebula clan, the second of the Motsa clan. 
After that a king is free to take as many wives as he likes. Tourist literature often states: 'The king takes a new wife every year at the reed dance". He is not obliged to do so, but indeed, watching girls at the reed dance might lead to a (discreet) meeting to find out if a girl is suitable

The present king Mswati III has nine wives, twelve children and three "Emaphovela" (finances).
Aged 35 years (in 2003), he is the youngest king of the world.

The Incwala

The Ncwala or first fruit ceremony is the most sacred of all the Swazi ceremonies in which the King plays a dominant part. When there is no King, the Ncwala remains in abeyance. The Ncwala is usually held in December or January upon a date chosen carefully by Swazi astrologers in conjunction with the position of the sun relating to the phases of the moon. 

The ritual begins with the journey of the Bemanti or " the people of the water" to the ocean off Mozambique where they collect the foam from the waves. On their return to the Royal Cattle Kraal, the ceremony of the "Little Ncwala" commences preceding the appearance of the full moon. 

Following the "Little Ncwala", youth's journey in groups to every comer of the Kingdom to collect the sacred branches of the "Lusekwane" shrub which is a species of acacia. Tradition dictates that the leaves of the shrub will wilt in the hands of any youth who has been intimate with a married woman or has impregnated a young maiden. The lusekwane is taken to the Royal byre to build a small enclosure. Upon the third day a bull is ritually slaughtered by the groups of youths. This instills and promotes solidarity among the young men and a spirit of valour which is essential in fostering national unity, loyalty and discipline. The boys who are too young to take part in the lusekwane gathering, stack the imbondvo tree branches around the enclosure. 

The fourth day of the Ncwala is the culmination of this sacred ritual, when the King, in full ceremonial dress, joins his warriors, in the traditional Ncwala dance. The King then enters a special hut within the sacred enclosure and after further rituals, he eats the fruits of the new season. Upon the appearance of the King to his people, the Swazi nation can eat the first fruits with the blessing of their ancestors. 

The final burning of the King's bedding and household items follows, thus cleansing everything in readiness for the new year. Traditionally it is forbidden to eat the young fruits and vegetables of the season until His Majesty has first tasted them. 

Photographs may not be taken of certain parts of the ceremony and permission should be sought in writing from the Government Information Service.

Traditional medicine

Traditional healers in Swaziland are regarded as physicians, prophets, priests, herbalists and diviners which places a great responsibility upon them. Approximately 80% of the Swazi Nation consult them and there are both male and female traditional healers. 

The "Inyanga" inherits his skills from his grandfather and father. His profession is dominated by men and the "Inyanga" holds a senior place in Swazi society. His main function is divination which may be effected by throwing the bones. After several throws when the bones fall into different patterns, the "Inyanga" will scrutinize them and then spell out a clear message in lyrical siSwati. 

The "Sangoma" is a traditional healer who has been "called" to the profession. Generally practiced by women, the "Sangoma" is consulted to alleviate physical and mental problems, to attend various ceremonies and to act as a counselor. When divining, the "Sangoma" relies traditionally upon spirit possession. 

Both the "Inyanga" and the "Sangoma" are herbalists and most Swazis consult them for varying reasons. A special school is maintained at Siteki and visits to the school can be pre-arranged as can individual consultations.

Family life

Originally a clan system existed in Swaziland which was structured as follows: Nkosi Dlamini: Close blood ties and high status - aristocracy Bearer of Kings: The class who have provided Queen Mothers. Clans with own areas and hereditary chiefs. Clans from whom officials are selected for rituals and administration. 

Through marriage these clans have intermingled but there is still a class system which regulates marriage. Within the aristocracy, the first wife is never the main wife, status is very important and a second wife who has a higher pedigree will take precedence. A preferential marriage is arranged by the parents which bestows a higher status upon the union forming a permanent bond between the families. 

The bridegroom's family provide the desired number of cattle (usually 15) as marriage dowry - "lobola" in keeping with the bride's family background and the marriage ceremony may take several days before the bride is finally anointed to indicate that the marriage has taken place. In a private marriage, when there is no public ceremony, the girls parents may oppose the marriage, or the girl has no family or funds to provide the public ceremony. 

The bride and her relatives go to the groom's homestead on Friday evening. On Saturday morning the bridal party sits by a nearby river and slaughter either a goat or a cow, offered by the grooms family. It's only then on Sunday morning that the final preparations are made: the bride with her female relatives stabs the ground with a spear in the groom's cattle kraal; later she is smeared with red ochre.
The smearing is the high point of marriage, no woman can be smeared twice! 
Finally the bride presents gifts to her newly- wed husband and his relatives. These gifts are presented according to the order of birth.

The arrival of a child in a Swazi home is a source of great joy to all the members of the family. However, the rights of fatherhood are acquired through the "lobola" or dowry. If no cattle have been given the child remains with the mother's family. Swazi families are usually large operating in the extended tradition. The child will be taught to share both the fruits and problems of life with the other family members. Discipline and a share of family responsibility is ingrained in the child from an early age. The father is the head of the homestead, his authority is respected and obeyed. 

Boys will be taught by male members of the family and assume male roles and skills, similarly, girls will learn from their mothers and female relations. Boys enter regiments in which they will train with others of similar age, growing with the same group throughout life. The regiment's members are expected to support each other and close friendships are formed across clan boundaries. Only when the young man reaches mature warrior status does he consider courtship, as his previous responsibilities involved participation in national projects and festivals. 

Grandparents teach the young to respect the parents. Old age is treated with great respect within the Swazi Culture as the social, political and religious roles gain importance within the family unit. Grandparents can also act as a counter balance between parents and their children lending their wisdom and counsel in times of strife.

Wildlife

Game parks as Hlane, Nisela, and Mliwane with nature reserves such as Malolotja and Mlawula, will impress everyone.
Swaziland's parks are uncrowded and suited to self-discovery. Witness the remarkable bio-diversity from the Motshane heights to the Piggs Peak range of mountains down to the lowfeld planes of Mlawula and Mbuluzi.


Barberton Manor Guest House is near the road to Swaziland: the Bulembu road starts at Sheba Road and is about 45 km. It is a dirtroad, so in the rainy season a 4 * 4 vehicle is no luxury. Also, ask your car rental company about their (insurance) policies, as you are crossing an international border (Havelock). In case the Bulembu road is not accessible for luxury cars, we advise the Oshoek borderpost, via Badplaas, which is about 70 km from Barberton.

Additional info on WikiTravel: Swaziland and WikiPedia: Swaziland



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