National Geographic : 1969 Aug
KODACHROMES BYVOLKMARWENTZEL(ABOVE)ANDJAMESH. PICKERELL,BLACKSTAR() N.G.S . Last-minute touches groom attendants of the queen mother for a royal function at Lobamba. To style their elegant beehive coiffures, women tie their hair in tufts with concealed strings, then tease the ends with a porcupine quill. Maidens en masse brandish flashlights and knives in a high stepping dance at Lobamba. Gathered here for Independence Day festivities, they perform the traditional reed dance. In this annual rite, girls go forth in the night with lights, and cut reeds to repair the windscreen around the queen mother's hut, thus reaffirming their allegiance to the She Elephant. It is the king's right to choose another wife from among the maidens. he reached the advertisements. Engrossed, he pored over pictures of sleek cars and other Western luxuries, while I gave lollipops to his children-all 16 of them. Solemnly, politely, each child stepped up to receive the candy, then flashed me a shy smile of thanks. Chief Mkosini laid the magazine aside with one last, longing look, and became the gracious host. Because the chief heads several families, his home was a village in itself. The main hut, where his mother lived, was the family shrine. Around it clustered smaller huts. Mkosini led me to a group of huts numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4. "These belong to my wives," he said, pushing open the door of hut No. 1. I peered in. A woman's touch was evident. The stamped-earth floor had been swept carefully. A flowered spread decorated the polished brass bed, and there were curtains on the windows. In the corner, next to a portable sewing machine, colorful clothing hung from the rafters. The chief saw me glance at the wardrobe. He sighed. "Our women used to be happy with one pleated cowhide skirt every five years. Now they want much bright foreign cloth every few months. No man can keep up with them!" In a Swazi polygamous household, the husband normally has no hut. He uses his mother's great hut as a daytime base of operations, and visits the huts of his wives in rotation. Each wife cooks for her own children and cultivates her own patch of land for food. But Mkosini was a modern man, with a hut to call his own. All the farming and family cooking were done cooperatively.