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African Cultures


The Swazis are predominantly Nguni in language and culture. They originate from east central africa. As part of the Nguni expansion southwards, the Swazi crossed the Limpopo river and settled in southern Tsongaland in the late fifteen century.

Swaziland has been inhabitated since the early stone age and there are tracks of subsequent occupation by Bushmen, Sotho and Ntungwanguni clans. Swazi simply means the people of Mswati.

Rock paintings attributed to the San have been identified in many parts of Swaziland. The paintings usually depict animals, people, hunting parties, battle scenes and dances.

Drive along any road in Swaziland and you will likely see many Swazi's dressed in colourful costume, featuring a bright toga-like garmnet - the mahiya. You may also meet Swazi warriors carrying battle-axes. The women that you encounter may sport the traditional "beehive" hairstyle, which is still very popular today.

For all the modernisation that has come to Swaziland, the people have preserved their age-old culture and traditional ceremonies. The two most important and colourful of these, in the eyes of Swazi's and foreigners alike, are the Incwala in December and the Umhlanga in late August or early September.

The Incwala or "first fruits" ceremony is rich in symbolism and the most important and sacred of all Swazi ceremonies. During the Incwala, all people, especially male, converge at the Royal Kraal at Ludzidzini for several weeks of traditional dancing which is always joined by the King.

The Umhlanga or "Reed Dance" is the second most important ceremony as well as one of the most colourful. The ceremony is specially for unbetrothed maidens to pay homeage to the King and Queen Mother.

Although these ceremonies, which are at the core of Swazi culture, are performed but once a year, there are still many opportunities to witness traditional Swazi customs. The sibhaca dance, vigorous in style, is performed by teams of men throughout the country. Teams of dancers enterain visitors regularly at the Royal Swazi Sun, Lugogo Sun Hotel and Ezulwini Sun Hotels, as well as Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Mkhaya Game Reserve and Hlane Royal National Park.

The Cultural Village, situated at Mantenga Nature Reserve, is a living museum of all things traditional and represents classical Swazi Lifestyle during the 1850’s. The objective of the village is to enable Swazi’s from all corners of the country to reach out to it and maintain a positive interest on their cultural heritage as well as show tourists the cultural achievements.



The Anlo-Ewe are primarily located in the southwestern corner of Ghana. They are an amazing people who in the 1400's fled their homes, in Togo and took over the beaches surrounding Ghana. Here they lived for many years until the slave trade came and started shipping off whole communities of people. They migrated northward until they settled into some island and lagoon regions. An area known as the Keta lagoon became the primary location because the surrounding water was shallow enough to prevent slave trading vessels to be able to land. and from there used canoes to travel to various places inland where they developed settlements, and carry news and articles for trade. They developed a lifestyle and living pattern focused around the water.

The Anlo-Ewe are especially known for a very important aspect of their culture; dance-drumming. Everyone in the community participates and is seen as a way to promote the future of the community. If someone refuses to participate they are rejected from society and most importantly they are denied the right to be buried. The drumming events also reflect rank. The male and female elders give advice on the performance and make sure the event is carried out in the time-honored ways. The next level is held by the composer, the head drummer, and someone similar to a conductor who places people and make sure that they are performing the right way. The hierarchy continues to the lowest social levels. These sing, dance, or clap rattles to add to the performance.

Religion among the Anlo-Ewe is extremely important; everything is seen in a spiritual sense. Whatever happens happens for a reason. Everything on earth; tree's, human beings, animals, all have varying levels of force. It is a human's right to manipulate or use these forces for their advantage.

The Anlo-Ewe are a community oriented culture. Starting from birth, after the first 7 days a person is introduced to the community and at puberty is told of their responsibilities to it.

Amhara Culture

The name Amhara means "pleasing, agreeable, beautiful, and gracious," and these beautiful people have truly impacted Ethiopia for centuries. The Amhara are a very influential people group who live in north central Ethiopia, close to Adis Ababa. Their descendants probably came originally from what is now Yeman. They trace their lineage all the way to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; the ancient King Menelik I. They carried that same ancestral line all the way to 1974 with Emperor Haile Selassie.

The Amhara have a strongly Jewish culture because of their roots, and this has impacted much of their life. Also, about 50 % of the Amhara are part of what is known as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which is an ancient Christian church founded around the 4th century. They were heavily influenced by Syrian and Coptic Christianity, and were able to maintain their Christianity even as Islam penetrated the rest of northeast Africa. Because of the distance between the western Christian church and the Ethiopian church there have been many rituals and customs that have developed which are unique to the Ethiopian church. These include some baptising rituals and fasting. Fasting is extremely important to Amhara Christians; the faithful of which should fast about 250 days per year. In order to be a good Christian you should fast 180 days at least.

The traditional attire of the Amhara is a basic white, worn by both men and women. Their food is known as injera bo wot. Injera is a flat bread and wot is either a meat or beans mixture placed on top. Amharan food takes a long while to prepare, and has a distinct taste that can be either loved or hated!

Marriage is arranged by the family's and divorce and remarriage are allowed. Right now life is very difficult for the Amhara because of the constant lack of water and deforestation which is taking place throughout the whole country and 85% live a day's walk from any sort of road.

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Tanya's Africana Styles * 200 South Linden Ave. 12-O * Rialto * Ca * 92376