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South Africa
Cultural Discoveries

WWhile the majority of Swazi people live in Eswatini (also known as Swaziland), many have moved to urban areas within South Africa, especially around Johannesburg and to the towns of the Mpumalanga province. 

The Swazi people, part of the Nguni tribe, originated from east-central Africa in the late 15th century. While modernisation has happened over the years, tradition is still highly revered by the Swazis and their leader, King Mswati III of Swaziland, is one of Africa's few remaining absolute monarchs. 

Though Swaziland was colonised by the British and controlled by them until independence in the 1960s, Swazi culture and oral traditions were left largely undisturbed. Even today the elders still sit under the night sky and relate the story of their first king, King Ngwane II. 

A feature of Swazi tradition is polygamy, where a man chooses to have more than one wife and sets up his own village. And ceremonies play a very important part in Swazi lives, with the Umhlanga and the iNcwala being the most widely practiced. 

The Umhlanga is better known to outsiders as the annual reed dance, a colourful ceremony where hundreds of young maidens honour Indlovukazi, the Queen Mother. It is held on the last Monday of August and all young women are encouraged to take part. 

The first fruit ceremony, known as iNcwala, is the most sacred annual ritual. It occurs over a 3-week period in December or January and includes performances of sacred songs and dances. The men collect acacia shrubs, which they use to build a dwelling where the fruit will be stored for consumption by the king. 

While Christianity has made inroads in Swazi society, there remains a strong belief in the ancestors (amadloti). This is in line with many other African cultures, where the ancestral spirits are invoked, respected and revered. 

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