An African Kingdom's Cultural Renaissance

By: Betty S. Dlamini  

The representation of Swazi women as helpless victims of abuse in terms of numerous social injustices including domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, poverty, sexual assault, and general violence has been common in the media and some academic spheres. The problem I have found is the use of the word “helpless.” The purpose of this study is to identify the connection between Swazi women and helplessness. I claim that Swazi women are not necessarily helpless, but they stand up for themselves and deal with their challenges and empower others in similar challenges. This research is focused on women contemporary singers, but I also used a stratified random sampling method to identify a smaller portion of the Swazi women population to administer questionnaires to. I interviewed two women contemporary singers and four regional arts and culture event organizers. I observed both live and virtual performances of the singers and Swazi umhlanga (reed) dance girls. I used records from the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) for reference. I analyzed the data using both qualitative and quantitative methods. My research findings showed that Swazi women indeed face challenges. I also found that most women do not accept being helpless but fight their challenges and empower one another using traditional Swazi systems and performing arts. This study definitively answered my question with the answer no, the women are not helpless, but fighters! There is a need for a larger scale research to include more Swazi women's experiences.

Identity and Belonging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Betty S. Dlamini

Indiana University

I am a published creative writer, singer, dancer, and actress. After receiving my Ph.D. in African Languages and Cultures from The University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies in 2008 I became a lecturer in the African Studies Program at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. I teach languages and culture courses that include Theatre for Development, Zulu (one of the eleven official languages of South Africa, and three culture courses, ‘Southern African Cultures of Song and Dance’, ‘The Reed Dance of Swaziland’ and ‘Gumboot Dance: Beauty from Pain’. My research interests include theatre, the role of performance arts in development, women and gender studies, diversity in organizations, postcolonial studies, comparative studies (African American and South African cultures and literatures).