November 5th, 2011
Incwala is one of Swaziland’s National Holidays. It is meant to unite the country in entering a new year with joy. It is divided into seven stages. The first of which is Bemanti or Water Party. This stage requires all the King’s men, or emajaha, to assemble at the royal residence. The emajaha regiment is made up of men from the King’s family and men from the families of his wives. The men are divided into two groups that go to collect water for the ceremonies. One groups collects from the Indian Ocean, and the other from nearby rivers. After a certain cow is slaughtered and the men are given instructions from the King, they leave at night when the moon is dark.
The group sent to fetch from the ocean is then divided into three groups; two of which are sent to the Lubombo region to collect sacred herbs and shrubs used by the elderly during the ceremonies. The third group collects the water from the ocean coast of Mozambique. The route to Mozambique is through the Lubombo region were I live and the road that leads to the border is the road that runs right through my community. Can you see where I am going with this.
The regiment wears traditional attire of emahiya, emajobo (an animal pelt warn over their emahiya like a loincloth, and a crown of Baboon skin. They sleep at the imphakatsi (place of community governments) as they travel.
Today the regiment rolled into my community. They arrived by truck but then got out and ran forcefully into the umphakatsi where they will be spending the night. All community meetings were canceled and a cow was slaughtered this morning to offer to the men.
These being the King’s men, they have the right to fine community members if they are not dressed appropriately. This means that men must wear pants not shorts, women must wear long dresses, and married women must cover their heads and wear a lihiya over their skirt. No nail polish can be worn and shoes must be close toed. While I’m not married I wore a headscarf just to avoid a fine. It’s not much, 50 cents, 1 rand, but I didn’t want the confrontation or the harassment, which is much worse. I did witness some of these fines as the men hung around my community all day and had to stand there and watch my host sisi cry because of their harassment. It was an interesting tradition to observe.