This part of Africa has been inhabited for more than 100,000 years. Its current residents, however, are descendents of the Nguni tribe, which, came down to this area from the north in the 1600's. The Nguni quickly took over a large area, but over time found themselves being closed into a progressively smaller area by other groups of people. King Ngwane III, leader of the Nguni when they settled in this area, is now considered to be the first King of Swaziland. The following King, Sobhuza I had to face an even greater threat to the kingdom from the conquering Zulus, and though he married two of Shaka Zulu's daughters, more territory was lost. Before he died in 1839, he dreamed that white people would be coming to conquer, and warned his subjects not to accept their money because they would be corrupted.
The following ruler, King Mswazi, is credited with unifying the kingdom and those who swore allegiance to him were known as Swazis. Kings in Swaziland have many wives, and when the king dies there is usually a great deal of jockeying for position amongst them. One of them will be chosen by the Grand Council as the Queen Mother, and her son will become the next king. At the time, she must have only one son and he must still be an unmarried minor. She will rule as regent until he comes of age, and can take power as the new king. Before Mswazi took over, his mother, Thandile, consolidated royal power by creating "warrior leagues" among different clans, and successfully kept the invading Portuguese out.
Traditional family life plays an important role in the politics and economics of Swaziland. Along the highway, Abeja and I noticed small compounds of four or five huts that look like tiny villages. We learned that these were the homes of the Nguni extended family. Men in Nguni culture can legally have more than one wife if they choose, but they must build a separate house for each of them, and one for the children. The wife's parents receive a dowry for their daughter, and for the children when they are born. This dowry is usually paid in cattle, which was the standard currency before European domination. The wife's status is not based upon age, or the date of her marriage, but on her general status in society. The wealthier the man and the higher his status, the more wives he usually has. King Sobhuza II, for instance, had over 100 wives and 600 hundred children. When he died in 1982, the son of his most senior wife, Dzeliwe (Great She-Elephant) was selected to be king. King Mwsati III still rules today.
Although we didn't get to see as much of Swaziland as we would have liked (we were stuck in Mbabane for days dealing with money hassles and with getting visas to Mozambique, the next stop on our trek North to Zimbabwe) - what we did see proved that this tiny country is packed with beauty and charm.
Monica - So Who Was Shaka Zulu- Really?
Kavitha - da Vinci and Michelangelo have nothing on the San Bushman
Kevin - Mbira, Mbira, in the Hand, Who's the Coolest Cat in the Land?
Abeja - Traveling in Fairyland: Visiting Swaziland's Colorful Culture and Wildlife
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