Malkerns town near Mlilwane reserve
Right on the doorstep of the Mlilwane Reserve, the pint-sized town of Malkerns is a great place to stay while away a couple of days in the shadow of the eastern Swaziland Mountains.
Encompassed by swaying fields of corn and other crops, the center here boasts a lovely clutch of earthy Swazi homestays, not to mention a range of country pubs (that’s the English influence, no doubt!). However, it’s the immersive craft stalls and traditional art centers here that really take the biscuit.
You’ll be able to buy everything from woodworks to handmade candles.
Malkerns lies at the heart of Eswatini’s (Swaziland’s) middle veld, midway between Ezulwini and Manzini. This large, fertile expanse of farmland, bristling with the spiky grey-green leaves of the pineapple estates, is Eswatini’s breadbasket. Among the fields surrounding the small settlement of Malkerns are some excellent craft markets and workshops, guest houses, riding stables, and the Malandela’s complex – one of Eswatini’s premier tourist spots.
The Malandela’s complex has grown from a local family farm in the ’70s to a lovely restaurant in the ’90s, and today has expanded into a tourist attraction and is the highlight of many visitors to Eswatini. Mandela’s is home to the Malandela’s Guest House offering a comforting accommodation, and House on Fire, a performing arts venue routed within an incredible Afro-Shakespearean Globe theatre and home to the internationally recognized music festival MTN Bushfire. The complex is also the birthplace of social enterprise Gone Rural, a hand-weaving craft organization that has reached global heights with their products shipping all over the world. Each Tuesday it’s possible to tour the workshop in order to see the weavers in action, and Gone Rural also offers the chance for visitors to visit the rural homesteads of their weavers.
Nearby Malkerns is one of Eswatini’s most successful craft outlets the Swazi Candles Centre. From what started in 1981 by two South African art graduates in an old dairy cowshed, has grown into a factory of candle makers sending their products all over the world. There is an onsite shop selling a variety of modeled candles in vibrant colors, and now a whole array of other boutique craft shops and restaurants at the center.
Other arts & crafts producers in the area are also now starting to offer visitor experiences in their workshops. These include a tour of Baobab Batik to learn how their products are made and at Tsandza Weaving, down towards the Usuthu River, as well as a weaver tour, it’s possible to learn how to weave on 1-3 day hands-on workshops!
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