The Umthayi /Marula Festival is an annual cultural event held at eMfihlweni Royal Residence in the small town of Manguzi, Mhlabuyalingana, at uMkhanyakude District in KwaZulu-Natal.

The festival has been celebrated for decades and has grown from strength to strength to become the premier cultural spectacle in the Southern African region. The main event takes place over one day but the whole festival begins a week before with different events taking place. This colourful festival attracts more than 30 000 people from as far afield as Swaziland, Mozambique and the world over.

The festival is characterised by a carnival atmosphere centered on the celebration of the harvesting of the first marula fruit. As its practice, women within the Tembe traditional community brew marula beer. When the brew is ready, they carry and deliver it to Inkosi Mabhudu Tembe's Emfihlweni Royal Residence. The festival is one of the few cultural events celebrated by many communities across the Southern African region, forging unbreakable cultural ties and creates cultural, economic and tourism linkages in many of these countries. The event is also celebrated in one of South Africa's Provinces, Limpopo. Usually, the festival is full of colour, excitement, song and dance.

It is also peppered with musical extravaganza featuring musicians, and DJs from Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa, creating a cross-border musical experience like no other in the Southern African region. The highlight of the event is when thousand of women decked out in their traditional garb arrive at Emfihlweni to bring the marula beer for the Inkosi to take a first sip, tasting it symbolically and then giving his people permission to knock themselves out.

Amabutho (warriors) are also a sight to behold as they perform 'mock' battles, charging at each other with sticks, spears and shield, in full war cry-much to the delight of tourists who also come in their numbers to experience this cultural spectacle. Through this festival, the Tembe Traditional Council has also established an Education Trust Fund that has assisted over 100 students within the Tembe communities with tertiary education bursaries.

The highlight of the 2014 celebration was when the former MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Meshack Radebe announced that his department has set aside R16 million to establish marula processing facility that will employ locals to produce variety of products made out of the marula fruit such as jam, beer, soap, medicine etc. [ Read More ]