Monday in a Picture – The Kraal

Over the course of several weeks, I have featured my homestead and pit latrine. Another integral part of the Swazi homestead dynamic and structure is the kraal (pronounced crawl). The kraal is where a family’s cattle are kept. The kraal is also a symbol in signifying that family’s wealth.

In rural communities, personal bank accounts are less common. It’s not that the money isn’t there. The money takes on a different form. Cows are money. A family with a lot of cows is considered a wealthy family. Some families also invest in cows. When baby calves are born, wealth is increased.

Cows are very much intertwined into Swazi culture. If I want to build a home for myself and my family in a rural community, I am expected to give a certain number of cows to the umphakatsi (pronounced oom-pa-got-see), or local community leadership. If I want to marry, I must pay lobola (low-bow-la), or bride price, to the bride’s family. The lobola is traditionally negotiated between the families, and paid in cattle. For major events in a family or community, a cow may be slaughtered in honor of the occasion.

The cows are released from the kraal daily and taken to graze by a cattle herder. Amazingly, the cows know exactly where their respective kraal is and the cattle herder knows exactly which cows belong in that kraal.

In addition to wealth and food, the kraal also provides plenty of cow manure for to be used as fertilizer during ploughing and planting season.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

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​Monday in a Picture – The Homestead 

In Swaziland, we live with a host family in a rural community for the duration of our service. These communities tend to be very family oriented. Families live together on a plot of land called a homestead. Homesteads vary greatly in size, structures, and composition. There are some common elements with all homesteads around the country. 

I have yet to see a homestead that doesn’t have a farming space to grow crops, typically maize. Most homesteads have multiple buildings on them. On my homestead (pictured above), there’s the main house, my house, a tool house, a chicken house, a guest room, and a pit latrine. Many homesteads also have a kraal (pronounced crawl), which is where the family’s cows live. Some homesteads with many extended family members may have one house for school age female children, and another house for school age male children. Some homesteads have a kitchen house, where food is cooked in a large three legged pot over an open fire. 

There is, of course, a process to acquiring land to build your homestead. It starts with going to the inner council at the umphakatsi (pronounced om-pa-got-see) to ask for land to build your home. The umphakatsi is the local governance structure of a chiefdom. In many rural communities and chiefdoms, only a married man can ask the inner council for land to build a home. It’s expected that you give a number of cows to the umphakatsi for the land you are given. Once the land for your homestead is acquired, you can start building whatever structures you’ll need. I’ve noticed that building homes tends to be a local community and family effort. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

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Monday in a Picture – Sibhimbi

Recently, I was fortunate to attend an event in my community known as Sibhimbi (pronounced see-bim-bee). This is the installation ceremony of a new chief. It’s a really big deal. Most of the people in my chiefdom (community) were there, and people even came from far away for the all day event. The king sends a representative from the royal family. It’s huge.

The week leading up to the Sibhimbi, I noticed that infrastructure was being arranged for something big. Large trucks worked to ensure that the gravel roads were level. School children took time away from school to remove trash from the side of the road. I was urged by community elders to make sure I was present at this event. One of the teachers at the high school explained all of the fanfare surrounding this event. He told me that these events rarely happen. He shared that he had never been to one in his life. He’s almost 40 years old!

He explained that once a chief dies, the position of chief typically passes to the eldest son. While the new chief may govern the chiefdom (unofficially) for years, it isn’t until the Sibhimbi that the new chief becomes official. Because there are so many people and resources involved, it can take years to organize. It is at this event that the new chief gets his late father’s shield, among other items. The Sibhimbi involves much singing, dancing and eating. For this occasion, at least 18 cows were slaughtered. This is in addition to all of chickens.

In the picture above, several men from my community sing and dance in full traditional dress to celebrate the installation of the new chief.

Be kind to yourself. 

Onward.