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Festival of the First Fruits
From: 2013.12.20 To: 2014.01.10
The Incwala (aka Ncwala or the Festival of the First Fruits) is the most important of all Swazi festivals, an intricate series of religious rituals serving to renew, maintain and cement kinship ties. The three-week festival, stretching from late-December into January, is held in Mbabane and involves plenty of singing and dancing as well as curiosities like the ancient ritual of slaughtering a black bull or the painstaking gathering of sacred tree branches and of foam from the waves of the Indian Ocean. The King is, without doubt, the headliner of the event, the big name and the big talking point. On the fourth day of the so-called Big Incwala (if you can only go for one day, make it this one), warriors in full dress assemble outside the King’s private quarters to lure out their hiding ruler. After much begging and dancing, the star performer of the day finally dons his ceremonial dress and emerges from his palace to perform his long-awaited, sacred dance in front of his devoted people, and then he takes a bite of the season’s first fruits with the blessing of the ancestors. From that point on, it’s OK for mere mortals to sample the new harvest too. Be warned, tourists are barred from seeing certain parts of the ceremony and the locals tend to be rather sensitive to cameras. The exact dates of the festival are fixed by astrologers after performing complicated solar and lunar calculations, so be sure to make enquiries.