PICTURES: 2024 Marula (Buganu) Festival at Buhleni Royal Residence

The Marula season begins each year in mid-February and continues until May, bringing with it a celebration of the harvest of the Marula fruit. Once the green fruits fall to the ground, women and children gather and store them until they ripen to a creamy yellow color. The fruits are then placed into water, sugar is added and it is fermented, and distilled into a beer. This potent alcoholic mixture is called buganu, or marula beer.

The Kingdom of Eswatini celebrates the start of the Marula season with the annual Marula festival. The festival is increasing in popularity and swiftly becoming one of the country’s most exciting traditional ceremonies. Each year King Mswati III and Her Majesty the Indlovukazi, the Queen Mother, make their way to various regions of the Kingdom to celebrate the beginning of the Marula Season.

The largest of these festivals is held at the Royal Residence at Buhleni where the royal family joins the nation in song and dance. Although the Marula Fruit is found widely throughout Africa, it is most popular in Eswatini. Seen by the Swazi nation as much more than a food source, the Marula is rather regarded as a magical healing ingredient, with huge fertility properties. The King and Queen Mother are presented with Marula gifts and some Marula beer from each household. Only after the royal family has had some of the beer, is the rest of the nation permitted to join in and drink as well.

Because of its many uses, the marula fruit is no longer just used to brew beer in Swaziland. It has been further developed into beauty products as part of Her Majesty, The Indlovukazi’s job creation and poverty alleviation initiatives for rural women in Swaziland. Several families in Swaziland have benefitted from this initiative. 

MARULA QUICK FACTS

  • Marula fruit contains four times more valuable vitamin C than oranges.
  • Marula edible seed oil is rich in nutritious proteins and minerals and contains active anti-oxidants.
  • Marula essential oils are an effective skin conditioner. Its cosmetic and anti-oxidant properties soften, soothe, and rehydrate the skin while fighting free radicals.
  • Marula legends abound – from its use as a food source, and magical qualities as a healing ingredient, to its virility and fertility properties, as well as the many uses of its bark, leaves, fruit, nut, and kernels.

MARULA SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

  • On the first day, the Queen Mother arrives at Buhleni Royal Residence, and the women of the area present bucket-loads of marula fruit harvested over the last week.  All the women are dressed in traditional clothing and respect is shown, praise and thanks are given
  • On the second day, the main day, the King usually joins the Queen Mother, and the Marula Brew – Emaganu – is presented to their majesties, who partake of the brew and declare the season open.  This is celebrated by song and dance, specific to the occasion.  
  • Following this, marula brew, buganu, is officially blessed and may be consumed across the country.
  • A second event of similar rituals is held at His Majesty’s Hlane Royal Residence  

         

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