Photos of the King's Birthday Celebrations, Swaziland

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The King's Birthday Celebrations

The birthday of His Majesty King Sobhuza II was celebrated each year in different parts of the kingdom. It was an opportunity to honour the King in rural areas in which traditional Swazi regiments saluted him and "sibhaca" dances were held, among others. The King, in his capacity as Chief Inspector of the Royal Swaziland Police would appear in his uniform, an unusual sight as for almost all other occasions he would wear Swazi traditional costume.

Dancing in Siteki
Sibhaca dance group
March of Veterans
Swaziland Police Band
Arrival King's wives
Arrival King's daughters
Waiting for the King
Arrival of the King
Saluting the King
King's salute
During National Anthem
Guard of Honour
Inspecting the Guard
Watching festivities
Royal salute
Marching past
The King leaves
Traditional man
Sibhaca dance
Dancing Sibhaca
Traditional warriors
Arrival of
Swazi regiments
Royal Swaziland Police band
Scouts with flag
“Bomake” dancing
Married women dance
Salute by the King
On the Royal dais
Marching past
Regiment marching
The King leaves
Regiment in the lilawu
Men in their lilawu
Women grooming
Grooming in Mangwaneni
Preparing tobacco
Regiments marching
Swaziland's army
Parade in the Oval
The King arrives

The King's wives and daughters would arrive in buses and the King himself usually in his Cadillac; he would enter the festive grounds in an open Land Rover, accompanied by the Commissioner of Police. He would climb the dais, giving a military salute while Swaziland's National Anthem was being played. The King then inspected a Guard of Honour of officers of the Royal Swaziland Police, an opportunity to give them well earned recognition.

The celebrations always brought large groups of traditional Swazi regiments ("emabutfo") in their best finery together, who would sing while marching past. There were also members of the then latest regiment, named Gcina (meaning "End of an Era"), established in 1969 for young men aged 15 to 25; these would, however, not be in traditional apparel but looked more like a group of scouts in their uniforms, carrying Swaziland flags. The Gcina youngsters were in fact taught better farming methods by a group of Israeli experts at the time.

The King would stand on the Royal dais while the National Anthem was being played and he would salute the warriors as they filed past. In 1974, when the celebrations were held in Mbabane, there was also a march past by the new army, with the Gcina regiment in their uniforms and young boys in small military uniforms - the next regiment called Nkhanyeti (meaning "Star"), to the tunes of the Royal Swaziland Police Band. On this occasion the King arrived in a classic car that was used way back in 1938 and on loan from a South African museum!

After the King had left the festivities would continue, with different "Sibhaca" groups performing their vigorous stamping warrior's dances to the sound of singing and large drums.