This is the kingship ritual in eSwatini, and is known as one of the biggest festivals in the country. Happening over a period of a month, Incwala comprises a few activities that mark the age-old tradition that is centred on the monarch.
Without a king, there would be no Incwala.
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The event is conducted by the national priests called Bemanti (people of the water), or Belwandle (people of the sea) as it is their duty to fetch water from the sea to strengthen the king. Other participants include the King’s blood-brothers.
Some members of the Chief Clans in the country are however not allowed at the festival because it is considered that they may be too powerful to overshadow the king. It is also a way to show that they have accepted the supremacy of the Dlamini clan.
In the custom, the first activity is the Bemanti, which involves the elders setting out with sacred vessels to the sea. It is followed by the Little Incwala, where the Bemanti meets with the king at the royal capital to drink special beer and in dance and sing sacred hymns called imigubho.
The next activity is the Lusekwane, named after a special acacia tree found in eSwatini. It involves ‘pure’ young men fetching the tree and then participating in bull-fighting to mark the beginning of the main Incwala event.
In this main event, the king appears in all his splendour and involves in a number of activities including his seclusion and purification, and eventual festivities to mark the new year.