No matter the level of civilization that takes over the world, we’ll always be attached to our roots. The Swazi people of Southern Africa aren’t left out. Whether it’s for a traditional wedding or any festival, they never fail to don their Swazi traditional attire.
And like every cultural item, these attires have become a major part of their identity. They’re also a must-have for you if you plan to visit Swaziland or any region in Southern Africa.
I mean, what better way to win the admiration of a tribe than to wear their traditional attires as though it’s yours?
It’s why we created this piece for you. If you’re from Eswatini (Swaziland), a new immigrant, or a tourist, you’ll learn more about Swazi traditional attire in this article. But before we begin, let’s take a brief look at where this clothing stems from.
Who Owns the Swazi Traditional Attire?
The Swazi or Swati tribe owns this cultural attire. Named after the prominent King Mswati II, who reigned in 1839, Swatis are a Bantu ethnic group in Southern Africa that inhabit Eswatini, a sovereign kingdom in Southern Africa formerly known as Swaziland.
Their cultural clothes feature colorful fabrics with different patterns on them. To spice things up, they also add fashion accessories such as beads, cowries, etc.
Back in the day, what the indigenous people of Swati wore was dependent on their age and gender. For instance, babies aged three months mostly wore protective medicines while boy children between three months and three years wore tiny loin skin. On the other hand, their female counterparts either wore no cloth or wore colorful beads.
Similarly, males between three to eight years wore loin clothes while their female counterparts wore a string of beads and a skirt made of grass or fabric.
Furthermore, male kids aged eight to 17 wore loin clothes and a penis cap. While girls aged 8 to 15 wore a grass skirt or one made of short toga fabric and accessorize with beaded necklaces.
On the other hand, Swazi bachelors wore loin clothes with beads, while the females wear a dress and hold their hair up in a small bun. For the married Swati men, loin clothes are their go-to while the newly married women wear animal skin skirts, with an apron under their armpits.
How to Wear Swazi Traditional Attire
Swazi men’s traditional clothing features a colorful cloth “skirt” covered by a leather apron known as Emajobo. During ceremonial occasions, they also wear accessories such as the Ligcebesha (neckband), Umgaco (ties), and Sagibo (walking stick). Royalty wear Ligwalagwala (red feathers).
On the other hand, Swati women’s traditional clothing includes a cloth called Ilihhiya. Regardless of their marital status, they wear or tie a brown bottom piece known as Sidvwashi.
However, while the married ones cover their upper torsos and rock traditional “beehive” hairstyles, the single ones wear only beads over their upper torsos, especially during ceremonies.
Also, to differentiate their marital status, single Swazi women, tie the knot of their Ilihhiya on the right shoulder. The married ones tie theirs over the left shoulder with a goatskin that signifies their marital status on their right shoulder.
Modern Swazi Traditional Attire
Swazi traditional attire has evolved to include modern Afrocentric pieces. Just as how fashion designers have made tweaks to the Nigerian Aso oke, Isi agu, and Agbada attires, Eswatini people have made their modifications too.
We now see mermaid dresses made with indigenous Swatgi fabrics. What about the styles? You can make virtually any style with the fabrics too and rock them with any hairstyle you want. From dresses to suits, wrappers, and what have you, your options are indeed limitless.
Feast your eyes on some of them.