Published on 23 Nov 2014 | over 2 years ago
The Reed Dance ceremony, is an annual Swazi and Zulu tradition held in August or September. In Swaziland, tens of thousands of unmarried and childless Swazi girls and women travel from the various chiefdoms to Ludzidzini to participate in the eight-day event.
In South Africa, the ceremony Umkhosi woMhlanga takes place every year in September, at the Enyokeni Royal Palace in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal. The girls come from all parts of Zululand, and in recent years there are also smaller groups from Swaziland, as well as more distant places such as Botswana and Pondoland. All girls are required to undergo a virginity test before they are allowed to participate in a royal dance, though in recent years the testing practice has been met with some opposition.
The girls wear traditional attire, including beadwork, and ‘izigege’ and ‘izinculuba’ that show their bottoms. They also wear anklets, bracelets, necklaces, and colorful sashes. Each sash has appendages of a different colour, which denote whether or not the girl is betrothed.
As part of the ceremony, the young women dance bare-breasted for their king, and each carries a long reed, which is then deposited as they approach the king. The girls take care to choose only the longest and strongest reeds, and then carry them towering above their heads in a slow procession, up the hill to the palace. The procession is led by the chief Zulu princess, who takes a prominent role throughout the festival. If the reed should break before the girl reaches that point, it is considered to signal that the girl has already been sexually active.