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Published on : Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Heralding the New Year, Incwala Festival, the most important annual cultural event in Swaziland, unites the country and celebrates the beginning of the harvest season.The Kingdom of Swaziland, well known for its many cultural festivals will celebrate the Incwala Festival between now and mid-January. The event is one of the last remaining examples of what was previously in practice in many African countries. Often translated as “First fruits Festival” the tasting of the first of the season bounty by the king is only one part of this long ritual.
Incwala takes place in the Royal Kraal for four days from the new harvest after the full moon nearest the summer solstice, December 21st where visitors interested in Swaziland culture are always welcome to attend, but are required to respect tradition – ladies to wear skirts and men are allowed not to wear hats, unless they have traditional head dresses.
The event is a celebration that unites the country, helps gain the blessing of ancestors, sanctifies the kingship, and celebrates the beginning of the harvest season. A sequence of 3 days culminates on Big Incwala, the major day of the festival, when the feasting and dancing reach a climax, and thousands of people thronging the royal parade grounds. The ceremony ends when the King of Swaziland, Mswati III, in full ceremonial dress, joins his warriors in the traditional dance and enters a special sanctuary and after some traditional rituals, eats the first fruits of the season. The songs dances and ritual that take place inside the Royal Kraal remain a matter of utmost secrecy and may not be recorded on written down.
The final day of the Incwala Festival signifies the end of the old year and welcomes the year to come. Regiments march to a forest and return with wood, which forms a central fire in the cattle byre. Objects are burnt and dancers celebrate the future to come.
Incwala Festival takes place every year around the last week of December / first week of January depending on the lunar cycle. The dates for the event are only released relatively close to the time as they derive from ancestral astrology.