The end of August will see a hive of colourful activity in the tiny Kingdom of Swaziland – it is the beginning of the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance.
Literally truck-loads of maidens – all standing, singing and dancing in the back of cattle and army lorries – can be witnessed on the roads in Swaziland, or groups bathing in the rivers. The atmosphere is one of unity and jubilance.
Over the first 4 days, maidens gather in groups and head out along riverbanks under supervision. Their mission – to cut and collect tall reeds, bind them and return to Ludzidzini, the Royal Homestead in Lobamba. The fifth day is a day of rest and preparation for one of Africas largest and most colourful cultural spectacles.
On Monday the 3rdSeptember, tens of thousands of maidens will gather at Ludzidzini Royal Homestead on the final day of celebration of the ancient Umhlanga custom. His Majesty King Mswati lll will join the celebrations in the afternoon to pay tribute to the maidens. As is custom, no time is given and his sudden appearance is an age-old security precaution. On arrival, there is much ululation, praise-singing and a rush of regal energy.
Once settled, the procession commences in a most organised and respectful manner, formations of ladies flowing past the grandstand, rocking in a vocal celebration of maiden’s chastity and purity past the VIP area. Eventually His Majesty will drop down and move through the groups, paying his respects to his people.
At the end of the day, the reeds collected will be presented to the Queen Mother, Ndlovokazi, and the protective Guma (reed fence) around her homestead will be rebuilt.
The sacred motive underpinning the event is the celebration of chastity and a unification of the Kingdom’s ladies. However, the event has long been misrepresented as an opportunity for the King to choose a wife – or has it? What is the Swazi secret? Attend the festival and be enlightened. Understand and experience true African culture along with warm hospitality.
Visitors to the event are welcome to find a spot on the grass in the open air, becoming part of the crowd and thus are able to be ‘within’ the event. Security is always apparent, alert, but friendly.
Due to the celebrations of Umhlanga, Monday 29th August is a public holiday in Swaziland.