Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tanzanian dancing to Swazi dancing

The Kingdom of Swaziland, approximately the size of Wales, has been inhabited since prehistory by one ethnic group, the Swazi, which makes the nation one of the unique countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Swaziland has beautifully varied geography from the mountainous west to the lowland plains in the east and is surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique.


Below is a clip of a video that shows a village being approached from surrounding mountainous beauty.

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We continue with our dancing theme that has transitioned from Dutch dancing (in Iowa USA), Cameroon dancing, Tanzanian dancing and now to Swazi dancing. Swaziland culture is colorful, and men and women dance with incredible energy, as shown in the two clips below from a longer video.


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Below is a quick tour of Mbabane, the capital city. In the background one hears a choir singing, which comes into view later. Note traditional melody and tempo from the foregoing clip.

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Swazi citizens embrace their culture with active participation in annual ceremonies. Below is a video of the Ncwale ceremony that lasts from late December to early January each year. The King disappears from the general public into a sacred enclosure where he is given the first fruits of the season, and the symbolic burning of his bedding and the slaughter of cattle signify the beginning of a prosperous new year.

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Swaziland is most famous for the annual Umhlanga (Reed Dance) ceremony in which scores of single maidens, wearing colors that reveal different family status in relationship to the king, parade in front of the king who chooses another wife. In practice the selection is orchestrated behind the scenes before the actual parade.

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While the preservation of the kingdom and culture is widely embraced, the behavior of King Mswati III is drawing criticism from various quarters. In 2008 he ordered 40 new BMWs to ferry guests for his 40th birthday. Four years later the king proudly revealed a personal jet, costing about $46 million, as a gift to himself. Although he has a personal fortune estimated more than $100 million, the king has absolute control over all public institutions, including the national treasury, to fund his wishes. Meanwhile, the economy is deteriorating and it estimated that 40% of the nation is infected by HIV, which King Mswati III himself acknowledged below as a threat to the future existence of the nation.

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Having very fond memories of our stay in Swaziland in the mid-1990s, it is sad to witness the socio-economic deterioration of the Swazi nation.

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