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Ngwenya Glass, a popular tourist stop near the Ngwenya border post, is home to the famous glass-blowing factory.
Ngwenya Glass grew from a Swedish aid project with Swazi trainees sent to study at the celebrated Kosta Boda glassworks. Today the factory’s figurines, vases and tableware are exported worldwide. All these products are made from 100% recycled glass – primarily old soft-drinks bottles collected from around Eswatini (Swaziland) – and the factory employs a series of eco-friendly practices throughout the production process. On weekdays you can watch from a balcony as the glassblowers work their magic at the glowing furnaces. The adjoining showroom has an impressive array of products.
In 1981, management of the factory – then known as Swazi Glass Craft – was transferred to the Swaziland Small Enterprise Development Corporation. Four years later production came to a halt. Fortunately the products had already acquired a devoted following of collectors – among them, the Prettejohn family from South Africa, who came to investigate what had happened to their beloved glass animals. By June 1987 they found themselves the proud new owners of Africa’s only glass factory. In August, after renovating the machinery and tracking down staff, they resumed production. Today the 70 workers include six of the original staff, including master glassblower Sibusiso Mhlanga, who has worked with some of the world’s leading glassblowers and now tutors new apprentices.