Ncwala (Festival of the First Fruits)

Place: Royal Residences across Swaziland  (01 Dec 2018 - 10 Jan 2019 )

This Swaziland kingship ceremony has been handed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years and is seen as one of the last remaining examples of what was previously a common practise in many African countries. Although not a tourism event per se, visitors with an interest in Swaziland culture are always welcomed. Respect for total privacy is required on certain special days when the nation gathers for its own focus, without outside interference. 

The festival takes place over three to four weeks; the first period commences at the new moon when the Bemanti or "water party" journeys to the Indian Ocean in Mozambique to collect the foam of waves, which is believed to have healing powers. Upon their return to the king's palace, they hold a ceremony called "Little Ncwala". Wearing traditional outfits, they chant sacred songs.

NcwalaWhen the moon is full, "Big Ncwala" commences with a mammoth journey by young men from all over the country, who gather branches from the "Lusekwane" tree to construct a sacred enclosure in the royal kraal (cattle enclosure). The following day a sacred black bull is driven into the king's kraal, captured and slaughtered, ready for the next day's feast.

NcwalaThe next day is known as the main Ncwala day. Warriors and guests assemble in the royal compound.  The warriors are typically clothed in traditional dress of animal skins and cowtails . They dance in the sacred boma, singing slow rituial songs, until at last the King moves forward into his sacred enclosure.

NcwalaThe fifth day is dedicated to rest and meditation, to be followed by a huge bonfire on the sixth day, when articles are burned to represent the beginning of a new year.

The ceremony itself takes place over more than a month with various important aspects occurring on a day-by-day basis. The dates of the main public ceremonies have not yet been publicised and are only done so a few days in advance by the Swazi elders.