I admit that I haven’t even begun to write about most of my travel experiences on here yet, some have simply had to slip through the net. If I stopped travelling NOW, I’d have enough stories for one post every day on here for the next 10 years. So in an attempt not to lose track of some of my past travel stories, here’s an overview of my visit to Mantanga Cultural Village in Swaziland. A really really cool experience.
I visited Swaziland for 4 days only, back in 2011, I arrived overland from Golela (Zululand, South Africa) to Lavumisa and based myself in the Malkerns Valley. One of the days we did a tour of a load of sights that can’t be reached easily on public transport. We did a candle factory, some waterfalls, a market, a countryside nightclub and a handicrafts centre. This was organised by Shaun from Swaziland Backpackers in his red van. There were 8 backpackers of us in the van. Four Israeli, one Welsh, two English and me the Northern Irish.
A little before noon we arrived at Mantenga Cultural Village to meet the local tribe and enjoy their village, culture and dance.
We are met by Albert, leader of the tribe and we head into the mud huts to see the set up. One of the mud huts is big and in there we meet Albert’s grandmother. She has lived in this remote rural village all her life.
Today, she is weaving a mat. Swaziland is famous for its handicrafts – the women here all know how to make cool looking items, if you read my previous posts on Gone Rural, House on Fire and the Candle Factory, you will know that Swazis are artistic to the core. Grandmother and Albert say hello and we are told a bit about their lifestyle.
After that it’s time for the performance. It’s done in a mini theatre. Boys and girls performing are in separate sections.
There’s a funny moment just before it all starts, as the guide takes us into the theatre before they are ready and we catch a glimpse of bouncing boobies.
Two of the local girls have their breasts out and are putting some paint on. Sadly, for me and for you readers, I didn’t get my camera out in time to catch this moment. They covered up, unembarrassed and we took our seats. You could almost feel a Rachel and Chandler “Friends moment” in the air. I remembered back to my student days watching an episode where Chandler saw Rachel’s boobs and she wanted revenge by seeing his “peepie”. These girls definitely had a flirtatious nature about them, they were touchy feely when we posed for photos.
I sat with the fellow British and the singing and dancing show commenced. The locals do what is known as the Sibhaca Dance. The men provide drums and vocals. The women dance and provide vocals.
Nudity doesn’t seem to be too big an issue here at Mantenga as one of the main parts of the dance involves raising your leg and foot as high as possible. For those who have forgotten to wear underpants, again a half second glimpse of private parts is a normal part of proceedings.
This isn’t a porn show of course, and I shouldn’t take anything away from the quality of the dancing. But it was refreshing that there is a warm, happy spirit alive and well here and that a “no shame” attitude exists.
Then…it’s our turn. David from Bristol and I are asked up by two of the girls to dance and so we get up. I’m actually feeling a bit nervous, but it’s a load of fun. The girls grab me and show me what to do. I’m useless at the Sibhaca but nobody seems to care. It’s a nice travel experience.
When the performance is over, we join the girls for a chat. They pose with my travelling Northern Ireland flag and soon after that, our visit to Mantenga Cultural Village is over.
The visit to the village is FREE by the way, but donations are welcome and you can buy handicrafts from the locals. Public transport isn’t really an option, so share a car or get on the backpacking bus tour from Swaziland Backpackers.
It was nice reliving the Sibhaca today in this post – hopefully more old school backpacking posts to come, if I ever get the time! Here are the videos I took at Mantenga Cultural Village:
6 thoughts on “Backpacking in Swaziland: The Sibhaca Dance and Mantenga Cultural Village”
Absolutely amazing Jonny as always, who wouldn’t want to see some boob! Looks like you had a brill time, the natives from the village look so happy and friendly – enjoyed watching the dance on youtube too! Must admit, I don’t know anything about Swaziland so I’m reading through your other articles – Don’t Stop Living for me is more like “Don’t stop learning”!
Thanks for the comment Paul – havent checked my Swaziland posts for a while so the places may have changed over the years – a pretty cool country though and no visa in advance needed so worth a trip! Safe travels, Jonny
I have been always fascinated by different African dances and how the locals keep the dancing traditions alive. Thanks for sharing. I wish I could experience it as well!
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Thanks for the comment Agness – yes these dances were cool! Definitely something to do when you’re in Swaziland. Safe travels, Jonny