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In my previous life, I was a jam jar



We are crossing the border into this tiny land-locked country; a Kingdom which has ancient and unique traditions. The people are peaceful, warm and friendly. We experience what the Swazi character consists of: good manners, they ask how you are and are genuinely interested . . . you can feel the warmth of these people. Speaking of crossing the border...At the immigration checkpoint are dispensers offering condoms to everyone who crosses into Swaziland. This country has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS per capita in the world.

This nation is lead by a monarchy, which is a dual one...the balance of power lying with the King and the Queen Mother. Family responsibility and discipline are instilled in children at a young age and the authority of the father is respected and obeyed. Boys enter regiments where they train with their peers and develop with this same group throughout life. The members of each regiment are expected to support each other. When a young man achieves mature warrior status, only then may he consider courtship as his earlier responsibilities involved participation in national projects and rituals. Old age is treated with great respect in this culture. A few more Swazi facts: 20 years is the average age, 50 years is life expectancy, 26.5% of the population is infected with HIV AIDS, most every person in Swaziland survives on $1.25 per day, they are known for their beehive hairstyles.


Among the mountains that encircle this African Kingdom of Swaziland is a mountain that resembles a basking crocodile. At the summit sits the worlds most ancient mine (it dates back 43,000 years!). At the foot sits the remote village of Ngwenya "the crocodile". We make our way to Ngwenya Glass, a charming little area where glass collected by the children of Swaziland is recycled and blown into beautiful works of art. I (and everyone else) purchase a few pieces to take home. My purchase is wine stoppers (blown glass animals). Ngwenya Glass was started by Swedish aid in 1979. The place was built, all the machinery was imported and they employed and trained Swazi's in the age old art of glassblowing! The story is: Ngwenya glass is so special because only recycled glass is used....every piece is totally handmade and mouth blown. People from all over Swaziland collect bottles and jars and are paid per kilo for clean glass. Then, this small group of talented Swazi craftsmen and women breathe new life into enchanting interpretations of the animals of Africa giving each their own irresistible personality. Ngwenya must be the cleanest area since any bottle that catches a childs attention finds its way to the glass works. This glassworks "factory" launched the most successful wildlife conservation fund by donating a percentage of profits from it's worldwide sales. It is known as the Ngwenya Rhino and Elephant Fund and it's proceeds goes directly to Mkhaya Game Reserve...a refuge for endangered species in the Swaziland lowveld. Ngwenya glass also uses waste newspaper as effective packaging, re-uses grey water and has rainwater catchments, uses purified old engine oil to fuel the furnace, plants indigenous trees around the "factory", has staff HIV/AIDS awareness programmes, supports orphanages and charities regionally, and is a proud member of Fair Trade (Cofta).

There are other stores in this little area that are great to check out. Everything is unique and handmade. I discovered a store where everything was made from magazine paper. They sold jewelry made of magazine paper...it's a great way to recycle the trash there and provide an income for the local families....it's beautiful. Stacks of magazines with a glass top were used as tables in the store and they wrapped your purchases in bags made of recycled magazine paper. I've already received many compliments on my earrings!

There were basket, pottery and several other shops. I also purchased a batik pillow cover depicting a big, fat, yellow moon with the African Acacia Tree on it. It is beautiful. I fell in love with the trees as well. (I'm loving Africa, can you tell? I think Skye was right....I am a white African!). My favorites were the recycled magazine jewelry and, of course, the recycled glass. All of it was beautiful and the fact that proceeds go toward conservation of the wildlife makes it that much better.


Posted by Linda Fluckiger 12:37 Archived in South Africa Tagged glass swaziland ngweya

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