Published on : Tuesday, August 12, 2014
The Umhlanga or Reed Dance Festival this year will begin on August 26th, with the main day of the event (day 7) to happen on September1st. This is when the main ceremony occurs, with the dancing attended by the King of Swaziland. This will be a public holiday in the country.
The Umhlanga Festival is a visual spectacle that bonds this small but perfectly formed nation. Its ever- increasing popularity defies the apparent decline of traditional cultures elsewhere in Africa. Witnessing this festival is a truly unique experience. Visitors are welcome, but are vastly outnumbered by the participants! This is a traditional event that allows spectators though it is not for them.
This ceremony is a centuries old tradition where the Kingdom1s unmarried and childless females present their newly cut reed to the Queen Mother to protect her residence. The King sometimes makes use of the occasion to publicly court a prospective fiancée or Liphovela.
On the main day young women from all over Swaziland and beyond the borders converge on the royal residence in Ludzidzini for this momentous occasion. Maidens gather in groups and head out along riverbanks to cut and collect tall reeds, bind them and return to Ludzidzini, the Royal Homestead in Lobamba.
Tens of thousands of women, led by Swazi princesses, spread a sea of colour as they dance and sing, proudly carrying their cut reeds. Traditionally, virginity is a pre-requisite for participation as it is considered taboo for an impure woman to cut the reed.
Residents of this tiny mountainous Kingdom are intensely proud of their deep culture and taking part in the Festival is a proud and privileged moment for all.
The highlight of the event is the reed-giving ceremony – one of Africa1s largest and most colourful cultural spectacles. The maidens gather at Ludzidzini dressed in traditional attire; bright short beaded skirts with colourful sashes revealing their bare breasts to dance and sing and celebrate the unification of the Kingdom1s women. His Majesty King Mswati lll joins the celebrations to pay tribute to the maidens.
At the end of the day, the maidens present their cut reeds to the Queen Mother, Ndlovukazi, and the protective Guma (reed fence) around her homestead will be rebuilt.
Witness it for yourself and experience Swaziland1s unique blend of ancient culture, pristine wilderness, wildlife and the spirit of adventure!