The Albert Millin
There is a weird sense of comfort in the predictability of things in Mbabane. How we all hang out at the same bar and mingle with the same faces every week. Wednesday meet-ups at Bahle Gallery keep me going–the colours of the art comfort me. It’s my favourite work-from-home spot, with a couple of Savannas to cool off. Sunny Friday afternoons at the Albert Millin help me decompress after a long week. Every once in a while, the cycle is broken with events like Unleash The Wolf at the Albert Millin–even though it isn’t that different from the usual, it gives us a taste of something else even if it’s brief.
I always arrive at the Albert Millin with friends. We always order some ice cold gin and tonics before we dive deeper into conversation. More people trickle in with bright smiles and longing hugs. Everyone is here to get a break from the humdrum. As the sun sets over the mountains, the DJs spin music, heightening the mood–there are calls for more rounds. “Cry Me A River” blares on the speakers–a crowd favourite. Nighttime comes and the moon glistens in the sky. The laughter and music grow louder with every hour that passes by. We dance the night away. And when the show ends, we wish it could happen more often.
Most of us living here yearn for something more. We wish for better opportunities. We want more money and to live out our dreams. We pray in silence for the right to govern ourselves and dictate our own futures.
As peaceful Mbabane seems to be, there is trouble for those who seek it. The status quo must be upheld at all times. Conversations quickly remind you how depressing life can get at times.
Auralgraph: Unleash The Wolf, Mbabane, Eswatini, 2023. © Siye Dlamini.
Family Prayer Session
Home is where the heart is, or so they say. For me, home is Mantjolo, a farm opposite the mysterious Mantjolo Dam where people come to pray and ask their ancestors for guidance. A dam that can swallow you whole if you get near without seeking permission from those that watch over it.
After searching for myself in the United States of America, I returned home to my mother’s arms with a college degree and a mountain of memories. I returned home to find it just as I had left it: the same pictures on the walls–one of my grandfather, my grandmother, my mother and her siblings; a couple of medals I received in primary school in the living room; my grandmother’s coal stove that is never in use still in the kitchen; and my bedroom left collecting dust as it awaited my return.
I returned home to my grandmother’s smile, my aunt’s cooking, my cousin’s crackling. Family prayer time at eight in the evening was just as I remember it to be. My return reminded me to be still sometimes. To rest sometimes. Take a sip of water just to gather some strength to carry on before the mysterious dam swallows your dreams.
Auralgraph: Family Prayer Session, Mbabane, Eswatini, 2023. © Siye Dlamini.
“The money we made from selling fruit on the side of the road got me through school.”
This is what my grandfather said to us when we complained about the food he bought from the women on the street. He brought it home to us in the early mornings before dropping us off at school and in late evenings when he returned home from work.
For a long time we did not understand why he stopped each time we drove past a woman selling fruits and vegetables on the street. Sometimes we gave the stuff he brought home to friends, neighbours, and strangers.
We grew tired of them at times. My grandfather did not.
I miss him sometimes.
This is why I make it a mission to purchase something from the vendors whenever I am in the city centre. It does not have to be much: a peach, a banana, or an avocado. If you buy some of their produce they give you a little extra to express their gratitude, ibansela. They greet me with warmth and affection.
“Unjani mntfwanami?” Just like that, I stop feeling like a stranger and become the fruit of their womb.
There is something reliable about the vendors’ presence.
I’ve gotten quite fond of my visits to the market. I find fruits from the grocery store less appealing and overpriced.
The market is right by the bus rank, across the river cutting through the mall on Dr. Sishayi Road. Buses and taxis go in and out, honking to signal others to let them through. Conductors call for customers and announce their destinations.
I enjoy the market with all its chatter and chaos. The women sit along the pavement with their fruit neatly packed in boxes. I always go to the one by the corner. Every time I come by she tells me she has my favourite grapes–green and seedless. We talk about the weather as she packs them into a black plastic bag for me. I give her thirty Emalangeni and let her know that I will be back next week. This is how I honour my grandfather.
Auralgraph: The Market, Mbabane, Eswatini, 2023. © Siye Dlamini.
Siye Dlamini is a writer from Eswatini and a keen observer who draws inspiration from all walks and sounds of life. While academically trained in political science, sociology, and theatre, she is professionally trained in production, creative direction, and project management. She is currently helping startups tell their stories at BGDY, a podcast PR agency.