Friday, 22 March 2013


What happens in Swaziland in February
Buganu Ceremony 

The Marula fruit ripens and falls from the trees in the Swaziland lowveld during the months of February and March. It is then collected by rural women who prepare a fermented and quite potent alcoholic beverage from the crushed fruit. Once the green fruits fall to the ground, women and children gather and store them until they ripen to a creamy yellow colour. The fruits are then placed into water, sugar is added and it is fermented, and distilled into a beer. This potent alcoholic mixture is called it buganu, or marula beer.
His Majesty King Mswati III, King of Swaziland joins regiments of emabutfo (warriors) and lutsango (woman's regiments) in a jovial ceremony of song and dance at Buhleni Royal Residence on a weekend in February, in celebration of Buganu - the fermented marula wine. Due to prominence of women's regiments, lutsango, in this ceremony it is quite usual for the Swazi Queen Mother, Her Majesty the Indlovukazi, to also be in attendance.

The ceremony regularly attracts scores of people from all walks of life and for independent and adventurous tourists with an interest in African cultural this is an undiluted and not commercialised event (yet) that is typical of centuries of African tradition.

Buhleni is situated in the northern Hhohho region of Swaziland. Women will begin to deliver the brew on the Friday afternoon. The main celebration kicks off after lunch and carries on well into the night. After the celebrations there, the entire entourage moves to Hlane Royal Residence in the eastern Lubombo region for more celebration and general merriment.
Some say that, unlike most alcoholic beverages, bugano stimulates sexual urges to the degree that it is considered dangerous for men and women to drink it together if they wish to avoid adultery breaking out. In men it also said to bring an uncontrollable urge to eat meat, and livestock thefts increase significantly during marula season.
Thousands of women attend this festival every year. The local newspaper quoted two local residents on why they attend this event. Gcinile of Nkoneni in Nhlangano said for the past four years, she had been bringing marula to Their Majesties and this was an honour to her.

“For as long as I live, I will continue coming here. This is where we get the opportunity of showing our respect and love to Their Majesties. I also encourage even other women who did not come to make it a point that they do not miss such events,” she said. Meanwhile Thoko of Siteki said attending the ceremony was a way of showing their loyalty to Their Majesties. “As you see the king himself sometime watching us while we were in the dancing arena something that is really appreciated. It shows that the king loves his people and that is why we will always be loyal to him,” she said.
( In a next blog post I will tell you more about a company called Swazi Secrets which uses the marula fruit to make less intoxicating products.)