Eswatini or Swaziland: the importance of a name

Man having a photo taken of him with a book, yesterday

If I was the last absolute monarch in Africa and “my people” had a life expectancy of 58, and a HIV prevalence rate of 28%, I would like to think I would put healthcare and poverty at the top of my list of things to change. But not Eswatini’s King Mswati III. He prioritised renaming the country from Swaziland to Eswatini. Now you, like me, may presume the name change was because Eswatini is teeny-tiny (120 miles north to south and 81 miles east to west), but you’d be wrong. It was because he was sick of people getting Swaziland mixed up with Switzerland. And to be fair it must be frustrating if you turn up on the Swazi veld with your skis and you find yourself hanging out with one of the most oppressed people in the world when you were hoping for Mont Blanc.

Eswatini curry, so much nicer than it looks. In fact, it looks pretty bad, let’s be honest…

In fact reading about Eswatini’s awful poverty of was one of the reasons I was so delighted to find that the wonderful organisation Traidcraft (who advocate the importance of organic farming, sustainability and transparency to the lives of growers and artisans around the world) sell an Eswatini curry paste and even have a recipe for a vegan curry. I coupled it with this delicious slaai, a super easy to make avocado salad. It was one of those rare meals that is a hit with, me, my children, my parents and our guests! I hope you enjoy it too.

Yes, you should buy this, it is delicious

This week’s first film was also very enjoyable, the Richard E Grant directed wah-wah. It’s semi-autobiographical and tells the story of the disintegration of British rule in Swaziland, and the disintegration of his parents’ marriage through alcohol and shenanigans. For a film set in Africa it seems terribly British and it’s the kind of tale I’ve heard many times before, but it captures a moment in history that we will never see again and so I’d give it a go if you’re looking for an easy watch. If you are looking for a tricky watch, however, I would recommend Without the king, a no holds barred documentary with incredible access to King Mswati and his daughter Princess Sikhanyiso who wants to be a rapper. We learn that although the king has 15 wives and 36 children, he is a virtual virgin in comparison to his father King Sobhuza II who had 110 wives and 250 children! But more importantly we hear from the people trying to stand up to the unjust monarchy and rid their country of the billionaire parasites that feed upon their hard work.

Mama’s flat stomach tea — I fear that dieting may be a little more complicated than that, sadly

I will not, therefore, be recommending that you listen to the Princesses’ faux religious bile but instead either the incredible jazz of Zacks Nkosi, who plays a song about Blackpool on a saxophone whilst dressed in traditional Swazi clothing. Even better then, maybe listen to the sounds of Swazi traditional — the best thing I found by far.

This week’s book was When the ground is hard, by Malla Nunn. It is another in a relatively long line of Young Adult books written from the viewpoint of young girls being raised in an unjust and cruel society. As a result it is easy to read, despite the challenging topics, and it is also gives you at least one viewpoint of what it was like to grow up mixed-race in a country on the edge of apartheid. It has everything such a book is meant to have, unexpected friendships, tragedy, letters home and a copy of Jane Eyre, but despite my cynicism, I also read it voraciously and found myself wanting to know what happened to the characters. I’d also love to know how they would fare in today’s Eswatini for I fear things have got worse rather than better.

Just a last little line then on this week’s drink Mama’s Flat Stomach Tea Eswatini. I was unable to import any, but tried making my own out of rosemary, green tea and mint. It was delicious and I have never felt more beach body ready for next week’s trip to Ethiopia!



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Armchair traveller

Zero carbon lockdown travel through books, drinks, food, films, music and the magic of living in multicultural #Birmingham.