The one important thing for you to know is that the Swazi reed dance, which is a annual traditional event, has attracted massive number of people from all over the world. This ceremony lasts for 8 days, usually at the end of August which is the right time to harvest the reed. Well, maidens who are allowed to attend this event are those that are virgins and are not married.
The Aim of the Swazi Reed Dance
Umhlanga reed dance is a tradition followed by Swazis. The aim of this culture is to promote oneness and to keep solidarity among the maiden by working together. They are expected to cut the reed as tribute to the Queen Mother and to encourage them to abstain from sex until they are married. The girls are appointed a captain ’indvuna yetimtfombi’ as their leader who will guide them as they go about cutting the reed. The indvuna together with one princess (the King’s daughter) lead the girls.
The Cutting of the Reeds
Before the girls depart from their homes, they gather from different chiefdoms for advice from their elders. Then four strong young men are appointed by the chief elder to accompany the maidens. These men are said to guard and supervise the girls throughout the event. On the first day the girls arrive at the Royal household ‘Ludzidzini’ where the Queen Mother resides. Girls come in groups of 100s and more and begin to register as a means of security. Once that is done, the girls are then appointed sleeping huts in the royal villages and some sleep in classrooms and others in tents.
On the following day, the girls are expected to walk from Ludzidzini to Engabezweni, the palace where the king resides. The girls go there to receive the King’s blessing as the journey continues. The girls are separated into groups of 2, he young aged between 8 to 13 yrs and older between 14 to22 years. These groups then take different routes to their chosen destinations. In recent years the older group usually goes to Mphisi farm which is a long distance. Since the distance is far, government trucks are used to ferry the maidens. The younger groups then take the shorter route to Masundvwini.
On arrival at these places, they rest until the afternoon, where they then march to the reed-beds where they sing and dance and chat. They then pitch tents and sleep for the next day. On the following day the girls cut the reed and tie them into odd number bungles. After that they rest until the next afternoon. The maidens return back to the Queen Mother’s kraal and are ferried back by trucks to Engabezweni. They arrive there at night to show that they have travelled a long way.
The Reed Dance
This is done on the fifth day. On this day the maidens, rest and enjoy doing other things like going to town and getting to know other maidens. They are expected to prepare their hair and dancing custom for the big day. On the sixth day, the girls drop their reed outside the Queen Mothers kraal. Then move to the dancing arena in dancing groups, singing different songs.
The Swazi reed dance day marks the big day. This day attracts thousands of spectators from different parts of the world. Most tourists who come here take pictures. This is the main day of the girls dancing where they show off their dancing skills. On this day the girls come fully dressed in their traditional gear led by their captain and princesses. The maidens dance before the Queen Mother and King. The girls dance cheerfully all afternoon.
Then on the last day, the King slaughters a number of cattle for the girls. The maidens then collect the meat and are transported back to their respective homes.
- The Swazi reed dance has attracted a number of people from around the world.
- Girls from all regions and other southern Africa countries take part in this ceremony.
- Girls arrive at the Queen Mother’s royal village then pass to the King’s Palace.
- Maidens are divided into two groups; older and young.
- Reed is cut from Mphisi farm and Masundvwini.
- They gather the reed back to the Queen Mother’s Kraal.
- On the big day the girls dress up in their full traditional gear.
Swazi women are also allowed to take part in Umhlanga which is held earlier than the ones for maidens. The women are joined by the Queen Mother and follow similar rules as the maidens. They also cut the reed and present it to the King and Queen Mother.
Other Sites to Consider
Find more information on what happens during the reed dance ceremony and also find places to stay in when coming for the event.
Find pictures of the umhlanga reed dance of Swaziland. Also find more detailed information about the big day.
Watch the full video of the umhlanga day on YouTube. Witness everything as if you are there.