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Understanding Eswatini (Formerly Swaziland) Traditional Wear - Explainer

In 2018, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence as a country, King Mswati III decided that the original name of Swaziland, which was Eswatini, should be reinstated. Despite the name change becoming a challenge for the country's recognition, the population resonated with the rescue and celebrated the choice of its principal political leadership.

The country represents an extensive area of ​​environmental conservation with about 1.5 million inhabitants, surrounded by natural beauties. Located in the southeast of the African continent, the mountains are significant in the territory's landscape and contribute to a mild climate.

Eswatini's beauties and its population's pleasant climate have become great attractions to captivate tourists. Bordering Mozambique and South Africa, the country's population speak English and Swazi, favouring the native language as a friendly way of promoting local culture (Galloway, 2019).

Fashion And Culture

The African continent is known for the significant influence of tradition in its cultural diversity, and fashion has been one of the ways to keep this connection alive. For many communities, there is a great appreciation of their traditional costumes.

Worn on different occasions, they vary according to ethnicity, communicating codes such as gender and marital status (National Clothing, 2019). In Eswatini, a country located east of South Africa, traditional clothing is a significant aspect of its culture.

The country's leading textile is Emahiya, also known as Lihiya in its singular form, measuring about 1.5m x 2m. The fabric was developed in cotton and clothing made from it, are worn by men and women of the country in their festivities; among the motifs represented in the textile, there are the figures of the king and queen of Eswatini illustrated as lion and elephant art (V&A, 2022).


The Sidvwashi is a fabric tied at the waist, and the Lihiya covers the upper part of the female body. The way to tie this textile communicates whether the woman is married or single, so married women tie it over their left shoulder since they wear the Goat fur on their right side (National Clothing, 2019). In contrast, unmarried women tie the Lihiya over their right shoulder. The knot is linked just below the shoulder, or a brooch can substitute for the tie (D&D Clothing, 2021). There is also a headband that can be worn according to the occasion.

In addition to accessories is the Ligcebesha, a bead necklace made in various colours and designs. The most commonly worn one represents some elements of the country's flag. It is expected that at wedding parties, the bride wears orange and brown colours in her clothes. On the wrist, they wear the Sigcizo bracelet (D&D Clothing, 2021).


Men also wear the Lihiya. However, the rest of their attire has the specifics of men's clothing, such as, for example, the Emajobo, a leather apron that is worn over the men's skirt.

Depending on the occasion, they may even wear the Ligcebesha bead necklace and a band that crosses the upper part of the male body called the Umgaco and the Sagibo, a type of walking stick (Svelte Mag, 2022).

By Ana Rafaella Oliveria, Africa's Young Fashion Leaders Fellow (Research and Development) at the Council for International African Fashion Education


  • Eswatini

  • African Fashion

  • Lihiya


Image Credit: Pinterest

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