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An African Journey by Yusuf Hashim – Part 9

This is the 9th installment of An African Journey by Yusuf Hashim, a co owner of PhotoSafari.com.my. Yusuf Hashim has been traveling around the world in a 4×4 for more than 12 years. This is one of his episodes of his travels in Africa. It will give an insight on what to expect when you travel in Africa.

An African Journey by Yusuf Hashim – Part 4 – Swaziland

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Swaziland is the smallest country in the Southern Hemisphere. After the Boer War in 1899 it was administered by the British until 1968 when it became independent. Since 1986 Swaziland has been under the rule of King Mswati III, who is the last absolute monarch of sub-Saharan Africa. Political parties are banned in Swaziland, and the king appoints the prime minister and cabinet, all judges, two-thirds of the upper house, 15 per cent of the lower house, and is commander in chief of the armed forces. King Mswati can veto any law passed by the legislature and frequently rules by decree.

In 2002, hundreds of thousands of Swazis faced starvation. Two years of drought as well as bad planning and poor agricultural practices were blamed for the crisis. That year the government came under criticism for buying the king a $50-million luxury jet, which is a quarter of the national budget, while famine loomed. In 2004, while the country was still suffering a third year of drought, international donor agencies were aghast when they heard that the King was planning to build new multimillion-dollar palaces for each of his 11 wives (14 in 2011) while his people faced starvation.

AIDS is a serious problem in Swaziland. About 30% of the population is infected. To arrest the spread of AIDS, the King announced in 2000 that all HIV-positive people should be “sterilized and branded”. In 2001 the king invoked the ancient chastity rite, the umchwasho, that banned women under the age of 18 from sex. However, two months after imposing the ban, he violated this decree when he married a 17-year-old girl, who became his 13th wife. In line with his Swaziland custom, he was fined a cow by members of the bride’s entourage, which he duly paid.

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There were some civil protests seeking more democracy and asking for a new constitution. Although the king signed the country’s first constitution in 2005, the constitution maintained the status quo under which opposition parties remain banned and the king retains ultimate power. Most Swazis seems to accept that their King has a special spiritual role.

Most Swazi women usually dont walk around bare breasted, but at the annual Umhlanga, or Reed Dance ceremony, at the residence of King Mswati III, 100,000 chanting, bare-breasted unmarried girls and women, or almost 10 per cent of the entire population of Swaziland, parade in front of King Mswati, hoping to catch his eye and be picked out to become his next wife. At last count I think the King presently has 14 wives and 23 children. A Swazi king’s first two wives are chosen for him by the national councillors. There are complex rules on succession. According to tradition, he can only marry his fiancées after they have fallen pregnant, proving they can bear heirs. Until then, they are termed liphovela, or “brides”.

Here are a couple of Swazi maidens in B&W. Shooting in B&W  requires one to be sensitive to light and shadows, and shapes and forms and textures….

 

 

Stay tuned for the 10th part of this series

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