This website has been revised,
please click here for the new website pages.

Return to main page
Swazi History
Swazi Cultural Village
SNTC visitor information
Swaziland visitor information

Swazi Culture

By Richard M. Patricks, SNTC. July 2000.

Dancing and singing, including praise-singing, are prominent in Swazi culture. Pottery and carving were minor arts.

Soon after birth, plants and types of animal fur specific to the child's clan are collected, burnt, and the child is made to inhale the smoke, to promote its well-being.

marriage dowry/"lobola":
Man's family give cattle (usually 15) to bride's family. Sometimes paid in "instalments".
traditional wedding/"umtsimba":
Usually on a weekend in dry season (June - August). Bride and her relatives go to groom's homestead on Friday evening. Saturday morning - bridal party sit by nearby river, eat beast (goat/cow) offered by groom's family; afternoon - dance in the groom's homestead. Sunday morning - bride, with her female relatives, stabs ground with a spear in man's cattle kraal, later she is smeared with red ochre. The smearing is the high point of marriage - no woman can be smeared twice. Bride presents gifts to husband and his relatives.

Commoners are buried next to homestead, kings and royals in mountain caves. Funerals are important as means of the extended family meeting from time to time. A month after the funeral they meet again to wash away the contamination of death.

A supreme God/creator was recognised, but more important were the spirits of ancestors. Beasts were slaughtered and beer was brewed to please (propitiate) the spirits, and ask for help.

Traditional healers are still widespread:
inyanga (doctor) heals with home-made medicines;
sangoma (diviner) usually female, communicates with spirits to reveal solutions to problems;
umtsakatsi (witch/wizard) harms or kills people through magic.

Swazis excel in praise-poetry I praise-singing. Praise-singers compose praises for every king, chief and prominent person. Even bus-conductors shout the praises of their bus.

Using a person's surname shows more respect than using their given names. Every surname has an extension or set of praise-names which may be used to greet, thank or bid a person farewell. e.g. "Nkhosi ("Lord/Lady" or "Sir/Madam"), Dlamini (surname), wena wekunene ("you of the right"), wena weluhlanga ("you of the reed"), mlangeni lomuhle ("beautiful one of the sun"), Nkhosi!

Boys and men wore loin-skins of selected wild animals. Girls wore grass skirts. A woman with a child wore a cow-skin skirt, and put her hair up in a bun/"bee-hive" hairstyle. A married ("lobola'ed") woman wore a goat-skin apron over her shoulder.

Every man belonged to an age-regiment, for war and tribute labour. Formed by the king about every 5 years. Young men opted to be permanent warriors attached to royal homesteads. Colour of cow-hide shield and other decorations identify the regiment. King calls them out 4 times a year Incwala (January or December), weeding King's sorghum fields (January), harvesting sorghum (May) and threshing sorghum (July).

Succession In Swazi Kingship
The Incwala Or Kingship Ceremony
The Umhlanga Or Reed Dance

Traditional Attire
The Swazi Homestead - Umuti | The Headman - Umnumzane
The Sangoma and the Inyanga | Traditional Food
Indlamu | Sibhaca Dance | The Swazi Warrior
Some Swazi Words

Museum  Swazi History  Swazi Culture  Cultural Village  Archaeology  Monuments

Index  Introduction  Cultural Resources  Nature Reserves  Tourism
Biodiversity  Objectives/Legislation  Programmes  Miscellaneous