The Ncwala (or first fruit) ceremony is the most sacred of all the Swazi ceremonies in which the King plays a dominant role. When there is no King, the Ncwala remains in abeyance. The Ncwala is usually held in December or January upon a date chosen carefully by Swazi astronomers in conjunction with the position of the sun relating to the phases of the moon.
The ritual begins with the journey of the Bemanti or
"water people" to the ocean off Mozambique where they collect the foam from the
waves. The return to the Royal Cattle Kraal commences in the celebration of the Little
iNcwala, which precedes the appearance of the full moon. Following the little iNcwala,
youths venture into every corner of the country to collect the sacred branches of tke
"Lusekwane" shrub which is a species of acacia. Tradition dictates that the
leaves of the shrub will wilt in the hands of any youth who has been intimate with married
woman or has impregnated a young maiden. The lusekwane is taken to the Royal byre to
build a small enclosure.
Upon the third day a bull is ritually slaughtered by the groups of youths. This promotes solidarity among the young men and a spirit of valour which is essential in fostering national unity, loyalty and discpline. The boys who are too young to take part in the lusekwane gathering stack the imbondvo tree branches around the enclosure. The fourth day of the Ncwala is the culmination of this sacred ritual, when the King in full ceremonial dress, joins his warriors, in the Ncwala dance. The King then enters a special hut (inhlambelo) within the sacred enclosure and after further rituals, he eats the fruits of the new season. Upon the appearance of the King to his people, the Swazi nation can eat the first fruits with the b;essing of their ancestors. The final burning of the King's bedding and household items follows, thus cleansing everything in readiness for the new year.
Photos & Text excerpted from Swaziland Jumbo
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