One of Africa’s botanical treasures, the Marula tree, has over the years grown to become an integral part of both Swazi culture and economy. The juice extracted from the fruit is used to make marula brew and the protein-rich nuts can be crushed to make soup, sprinkled on relish to make it tasty. Marula oil is pressed from the seeds of the marula tree to make lip-balm, body lotion, soap and exfoliant, amongst other things. These products are produced for retail in local shops and exported to 30 countries in Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, and North America.
The marula trees produce flowers from September to November and bear fruit from January to March. February is a special month in Swaziland as it marks the start of the marula harvesting season. To mark and cele
brate this, Swaziland hosts the Marula Festival twice a year at the Buhleni and Hlane
royal residences, with women from all parts of the country coming in to present the marula brew to his Majesty the King and her Majesty the Queen Mother. It’s a celebration that runs from Friday through to Sunday. Friday is reserved for the presentation of the brew, fruits, vegetables and other crops to the King and Queen Mother. Saturday is all about song and dance, with Royalty watching and sometimes, dancing along. Sunday is reserved for the goodbyes.
Married women and women who are already mothers, commonly referred to as Lutsango in the local language, are central to this celebration. Lutsango in its basic direct translation is a protective fence. As such, women
at this point in their lives are deemed protectors as generally they are tasked with nurturing the children and are responsible for the general upkeep of the household. They are the ones that feed families and, by extension, communities. This celebration is mainly about them.
The festival has evolved into something more than just about the marula brew presentation, song and dance. It has also grown to become an important
avenue to reach women with information on a wide variety of subjects through structured communication sessions that happen on Friday evenings after the presentation and on Saturday morning before the afternoon song and dance session.