Arts & Crafts
Eswatini (Swaziland) has a remarkably impressive range of traditional arts and crafts with many of its products now found in top homeware stores and trendy ethnic boutiques around world. Throughout the country men and women are at work creating the finest handicrafts that are so popular with visitors. Creative basket ware in vibrant colours, wood and stone carvings, glassware, exquisite candles, batik items, jewellery – all uniquely Swazi.
As well as the opportunity to go shopping for these wonderful items, in many places that they are on sale, there is also chance to see the craftspeople at work and marvel at their intricate skills, and an increasing number are offering visitors an opportunity to have a go at the creative experience for themselves. Most are socially responsible outlets which provide both income and empowerment for their craftspeople from poor rural communities.
For a list of local Arts & Crafts providers or ‘artisans’ please see our listings on the following page:
Some of the different types of Arts & Crafts to be found in Eswatini include the following:
Eswatini has a vibrant and exciting contemporary art scene with fine artists, sculptors and photographers. To see the best contemporary art exhibitions visit Yebo Art Gallery which is situated on The Cultural Village Road in Mantenga. Yebo represents the best artists in Eswatini and organises new exhibitions on a regular basis.
Baobab Batik started in 1991 and has outlets at Malandela’s and Swazi Candles Centre. Clothing, cushion covers, table linen and the like are produced and the artists can be watched in action at the workshop near Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.
Exquisitely crafted candles come from the Swazi Candles Factory, near Malkerns where the workers do their stuff with coloured wax. Visitors can even have a go at moulding their own candle! The Swazi Candles Centre that has grown up around the factory is now one of Eswatini’s main tourist attractions, and is at the centre of a complex of handicraft outfits.
Carvings & Sculpture
Eswatini has a fine tradition of carving, both in wood and stone. Various wooden items can be found in craft markets around the country – mostly functional pieces. Stone carvers work largely with soapstone, turning their skilled hands to everything from palm-sized ashtrays to larger-than-life human sculptures.
At the Ngwenya Glass factory glass blowers can be seen creating everything from tableware to animal figurines, all from 100% recycled glass. This award-winning enterprise now exports all over the world.
Most markets and craft stalls display beautifully patterned baskets woven from grass or sisal, and coloured with natural dyes. Tintsaba, near Piggs Peak and Gone Rural at Malandela’s are two impressive enterprises which produce and export a wide range of products and employ hundreds of local women, making a major contribution to their surrounding communities. Gone Rural now offers both Workshop and Homestead tours for visitors to find out more about the weaving process and the rural communities of the artisans themselves.
Traditional Swazi jewellery is beadwork, used in bracelets, anklets, necklaces and other accessories, with messages conveyed in the patterns and motifs. Today it ranges from ethnic pieces incorporating such natural products as seedpods and feathers, to fine items in gold and silver. You will find many jewellery outlets in markets in towns such as Manzini and Mbabane as well some small outlets in the Mantenga area. Two that have outlets at the at Ngwenya Glass factory are Quazi Design, who transform discarded waste magazines into original accessories and Imvelo Eswatini which produces a range of handmade products including beaded jewellery and bags made from lutindzi grass.
Coral Stephens established a workshop in the Piggs Peak area over 60 years ago, teaching traditional skills to local women, and producing a range of fine, hand-woven fabrics that sell worldwide. Tsandza Weaving, have a hand weaving workshop based in Lomah Eco Village, south of Matsapha, and create a similar range of products using traditional techniques. Tsandza is now offering weavery tours and 1-3 day workshops for visitors who wish to have a try for themselves! Both enterprises employ many local women.
As well as the many traditional arts and crafts in Eswatini, there are many artisan food producers too, creating high quality and unique flavours. These include Eswatini Kitchen, Black Mamba Chilli and Bulembu Honey and Imbali Gin.