Sunday, July 8, 2007

Being Swazi

I've decided to take time out and answer that inevitable question I'm always asked on the street, at school, at parties, over the phone...u name it. I love it. I love the attention the statement "I'm from Swaziland" sparks from people. Many different reactions some, I immediately look more beautiful, they probably imagine me topless at the Reed Dance, dancing for my king. Imagine away, brothers and sisters....our minds are our freedom! To others, it is that one opportunity to satisfy an undying curiosity about Swaziland's culture, way of life, traditional values, customs and....of course, location. Many ask "Where is that?", after which I have to bring to life some pre-constructed map of the world and help them locate Swaziland in their minds. Fear not, soon as I mention South Africa, the real tourist destination, and perhaps Mozambique, where we would all looooove to do community service...and I might even drop the "Z" word, people looove to hear about the Zimbabwe crisis. Lets help Africa! Africa is dying!

Shut the fuck up.
Africa is not dying. Africa is rising to the top....sit back and enjoy the flight.

Yes, I'm angered. But dont worry...My anger is a good thing. I'm not one of those angry women (isn't that some world news.....). My anger stems from a passion, a goal, a dream...anger only fuels me up more. So in fact, when you make me angry, you're just helping me achieve my dreams. This recent dose of anger actually stems from being asked....the same some person who 1) has never stepped on Swazi grounds before, 2)is Angolan, 3)Had the decency to ask me to sleep with him because "As a Swazi woman, you don't mind sleeping with any man who chooses you.". Funny hey...hilarious actually. Before I go on talking about this useless piece of trash....very sad that he should be my African brother....incase y're wondering about this 'question', maybe u've never asked me before, or any of the 3 Swazis you the words of famous somebodies...I'mma break it down.

Why does your King have so many wives? Why does he force girls to marry him? Why do thousands of girls dance naked infront of the King? Would you marry the King? What do you think of polygamy in your country? Do you think what your King is doing is right?

The first few are easy actually. The King marries "so many" wives because he is the King. And because it is part and parcel of the Swazi custom. Next.
Mistake number 1, the media feeds you terms like "force", "take", "dictator" etc....The King has never forced anyone to marry him. The King DATES women, and then proposes to them, like you would too. Difference? He does it ...alot. hehe, well yes, he does. But he has never forced anyone to stay married to him either. Plenty of wives have felt uncomfortable with the situation, and left. Freely, without drama or chaos. So, it's high time you read the Times of Swaziland, and not CNN "World" if you want the real scoop on what goes on. Better yet, talk to a Swazi person.
"Dance naked" infront of the King is not exactly how we view our Reed Dance, and no I would not marry the King. He's not my type :-)

One huge problem with the world nowadays is that countries like, and media fueled by, The
USA try to impose their values on other cultures and the way other people do things. I went to school with about 200 kids from over 100 countries. My first exposure to the "real world". Everything we did was different, from how we ate, the languages we spoke, our accents, our religions, our way of life, our clothing, our speech, our study techniques....and infact, it seemed to work for everyone! Sometimes we dont understand how people do things, and we think how we do it is right...and what they do is wrong. That's fine, until we try to impose our own ideas of "being right" onto someone. Now, Swazi is a culture. A culture that is hundreds of years old. There are some things that you can't just decide in 2007 to change. You can't change the very foundation of what makes Swaziland Swaziland, and not Lesotho, Switzerland or Belgium.

Infact, I don't even like talking about this whole King thing, we are focusing our energies on very trivial issues!! However many wives the King has should be of no concern to you and me, he provides for them, they are happy. Had they not been happy, they would have been free to leave. Very simple. I've lived in
Swaziland for 24 years. 6 of those years have been spent in school in the United States. I studied the Int'l Baccalaureate, Pre-Med, Public Health studies, Neurobiology and the "Liberal Arts". I may not be well-versed in other important areas of the education circle, but I think I know what I'm talking about when I combine that with me being Swazi, observing my culture in various ways, having been exposed to what is Not Swazi.

That said,
Swaziland is far from perfect. Our economy could use a slight boost. We could use some free primary education, perhaps an expansion in the Agricultural sector. We do need to keep sponsoring our own institutions of higher education, and creating jobs for graduates therefore. Maybe we could revive our Air industry again and fly to other countries outside of Southern Africa. Some new effecient roads here and there, engineers with fresh minds and new ideas. Yes, far from perfect. The HIV/AIDS situation is devastatingly claiming the lives of our people. And yes, I do believe that the polygamy situation has been a major integral. But so are many factors that we tend to ignore...poverty, education, poor sanitation, poor health systems and policies, unavailability of medicines and vaccines....etc etc. Lets stop trying to knock our heads on the walls of Jericho trying to banish polygamy, and let us re-route our action plan. How can we work with what we have now? It's a simple phenomenon that we apply to our everyday lives. Accident on I-95 North. How do I get another route to work. Are u going to try and clear out the accident scene in order to pass through that highway, or are you going to take the other route? Scenario 2: You get to college and there's a professor who's been there for 25 years, and y're not really feeling his teaching style. I'd like to see you sit him/her down and try to make them re-learn their teaching techniques. I would personally find ways to study parallel to his teaching style, so that in the end of it all, I've learnt it my way, and I've gotten that A.

Polygamy is a choice. I believe that lack of appropriate education to women in
Swaziland may be the reason it's still very popular. I dont believe in telling women not to marry into a polygamous family (which is what the NGOs love to do! Its their hobby!)...I think that we should educate women, not just from Swaziland, but from all over the world, to be better advocates for the choices that they make. Knowing your husband has 2 other wives, you may try to take better precautions in terms of HIV testing, safer sex etc. if after this knowledge, u find that you are not comfortable marrying into a polygamous situation, that is fine too. But we should not try to make that decision for anyone. Afterall, we cant judge what is wrong or right. We can only try to alleviate the societal damages that we can see, and then try to prevent them from happening, in ways that we deem appropriate. We should not be trying to uproot cultures and try to make a USA-land everywhere.

So ask me, and I will tell you. I'm Swazi and I'm proud. I'm like no other, I'm unique. I'm happy and I'm educated. When I walk into a room, I walk proudly Swazi, with all my customs and my traditions...the things my mother and mother's mothers taught me. Is my country perfect? No. That's why I'm working to better it in ways that I can. At the end of the day...I'm still Swazi, That is where I'm from. That is where I was born. That is where my tongue can speak words that English, or any other language can never identify. That is the place of my permanent provision. I respect it, I love it, I nurture it...That is my HOME.