Friday, February 16, 2007

THE UMHLANGA REED DANCE


In August or early September each year The Umhlanga (or Reed Dance) takes place. It is announced during the end of the August, by the elders of the country, according to the position of the moon and the stars. With the start of the reed dance, soft rain begins to fall. It is a ceremony, which attracts young maidens from every corner of the Kingdom of Swaziland and parts of South Africa and provides the occasion for them to honor and pay homage to the Queen Mother (iNdlovukazi).





The Queen Mother of the Kingdom of Swaziland


The girls who must be virgins and older than 13 are flanked by male supervisors dressed in animal-skin loin cloths with traditional porcupine quills in their hair.







The girls wear short beaded skirts decorated with fringes and buttons; together with anklets, bracelets and necklaces, and colorful sashes. Each sash has appendages of different colored wool streamers; these denote whether or not the maiden is betrothed (promised to marry) and which regiment ( group) she belongs too. The red feathers in their hair recognize the Royal Family Princesses. They lead the maidens to perform for the King and Queen. Each group has its own particular dance steps and song which marks their respect for the Monarch and his mother. It is not uncommon for the King to choose another wife during this Ceremony.





Swazi wives


Princess Sikhanyiso Swazi’s outspoken 18-year-old princess, who is King Mswati’s oldest daughter and the child of his first wife views about polygamy got her into serious trouble in the Swazi kingdom. “Polygamy brings all advantages in a relationship to men, and this to me is unfair and evil,” Princess Sikhanyiso told a recent media conference.

Many of the girls carry torches and knives to indicate that they had cut the reeds at night.Although it is an ancient tradition that has similarities to other tribes of the African continent, modern maidens seem to enjoy the yearly camp. Homesteads along the reed-cutting route provide shelter and slaughter a beast(Cow) for the occcasion. The women are guarded on all sides by the women’s police force and members of the Umbutfo (the Kings traditional Men’s Regiment). The Ndzimba Mountains and the dramatic colors of the African skies as background, the beauties of the country join their singing voices in unison. It is a sight and experience so rare in this modern commercialized fanfare of international carnivals. It is not to be missed.




King Mswati III


King Mswati III and one of his 13 wives


Mswati has courted controversy for his lavish lifestyle while two thirds of his subjects live in abject poverty. Critics say he sets a bad example by encouraging polygamy and teenage sex in a country where 40 percent of adults live with HIV. But many Swazis say the young monarch has a right to do as he pleases, arguing ceremonies like the Reed Dance cement national identity.

So ladies if you are single and want to live a nice life as a Queen, have money, be rich, have a BMW and dont mind being a statistic to the Swazi King well then the reed dance festival is worth a try.


6 comments:

Larissa said...

The reed dance folklore is yet another great example to describe the unique character that different countries encompass. By being exposed to such customs one doesn't only learn more about a particular group of people and a specific part of the world; one could also value how different and striking these traditions are.

Bena said...

Haiyaaa!!!Very unique characteristics exhibited here.....Keep up with the updates,definately show varied cultures across the continent

Bubu from Switzerland said...

Hey Liz
I SAW THAT DANCE MYSELF! Not just on TV or so, but live! And now you report about it, that's really cool. However, as I remember it (and as my old pictures suggest), the girls wore much less than on your photos. That so-called skirt was more of a wide belt. And they dance in such rhythm and with such force that the ground was trembling (it was a Rugby field). And the whole affair, was very, very smelly, because thousands of people had been watching it for hours ;-) Anyway, it was big fun. That time the king had only had 8 wives (I think so), looks like he had so upgrades ;-)
Just that you know, I'm impressed by all that work on your blog. You mean business ;-)
Hug
Bubu

AFRICAN LIZ said...

Hi Bubu, thanks for dropping by saharan vibe. This celebration is perceived by several as a breach of human rights and has stirred alot of controversy.

Anonymous said...

What ever! I aggree with Princess Sikhanyiso Swazi’s outspoken 18-year-old princess; it's rediculous. It just another third world Patriarcal dominant society where selfish, greedy and inconsiderate men rule at the expense of women and the people. As usual, I am APAULED the ignorane and idiocy of a nation that would support a king who support teen sex in an particularly in an environment where the population is made up of 40% HIV infected people!

Anonymous said...

I like the way you express your ideas. Keep going on!

 
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