This week we have exciting news to share with you!
Last week Mswati III, the King of Swaziland, held celebrations for both his 50th birthday and Swaziland's 50th anniversary of independence, during which he announced that the country will now be formally referred to as Eswatini. Eswatini is Swaziland's name in siSwati, the country's native tongue. Deaf Open World is excited for this development, as it both promotes and recognizes swazi culture and presents it to the world, which is something that Swaziland has previously had trouble doing. To help you better understand the significance of this event, we've answered a few basic questions:
What is the function of the "e"?
When “e” is placed in front of a word in siSwati it signifies a location or place. For example, “eSikolweni” means "at school" and “eTolobeni” means "at town". This "e" is a significant feature of siSwati grammar.“Eswatini” is the siSwati translation of “Swaziland”, which translates to “land of the swazis”.
Why did the King decide to change the name and why is this important?
This decision was extremely important because it is taking Swaziland back to its roots and away from the effects of colonization. In the grand scheme of things, Swaziland is still a very newly-independent country. The decision to change the name of the country to reflect Swaziland's native tongue serves an important role in validating and recognizing swazi culture and siSwati. The King's timing in making this declaration made a bold and long overdue statement. Being that the declaration was made at an event celebrating the country's independence from British rule, the King has shown a great pride for the country's native culture.
This decision has already received much international attention and ignorant critique for being frivolous and unnecessary, as many people believe the king should be focusing on more important things in his country. The people of Swaziland have also voiced some speculation, however many natives hope that this statement, which is about recognizing and honoring the language and culture of an often over-looked and misunderstood nation, while also reclaiming their language, culture and heritage after a legacy that would have rather had it destroyed, will bring their country into a more recognized and respected place in the future.
What does this change have to do with Deaf Open World?
As an organization that promotes and values the right for people to use their native tongue, Deaf Open World recognizes the importance of this decision and its impact on the country, and therefore, the children we are working with. Language plays an important role in in validating and supporting culture and the dangers of cultural imperialism and linguistic hegemony. These same issues impact the deaf population in Eswatini and globally as they too fight to have their native language recognized and valued. Only recently has siSwati been a feature of formal education, and it is still not the language of instruction for students in grade 4 and above. These are just small examples of how colonialism has buried tradition and culture beneath western culture and beliefs.
For more information, check out this article from BBC:
Be on the look out as we begin to transition our language from "Swaziland" to "Eswatini"!
What do you think about this change? What effects do you think it will have on the way Swaziland's culture is viewed by the rest of the world? Let us know!