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This Week's Feature

The Umhlanga (Reed Dance)

In an eight day ceremony, girls cut reeds and present them to the queen mother and then dance. It is done in late August or early September. Many of the young women who have not yet had children gather together. The girls who may be teenagers or in their early twenties, wear the very colourful traditional costume of the unmarried maiden. They walk long distances to collect reeds and bring them to the Queen Mother. Younger girls do participate, but they are not required to undertake the long march, instead collecting the reeds from rivers close to the royal residence. The final days are visually stunning, with thousands of girls returning to the kraal. A seemingly never-ending line of bare-breasted girls walk several deep, moving through the veld like a giant, brightly marked snake. Refreshed after a nightís sleep they arrive in the royal enclosure the following morning, dancing, singing and ululating, to deliver their bundles of reeds to the Queen Mother. The King is there and often chooses a potential wife from those present. The dancing varies so that each maiden dances before the King. The reeds are used to rebuild the windbreak in front of the Queen Motherís residence and they symbolise the loyalty of the maidens. Visitors are welcome to observe this ceremony and photography is permitted; this is not a sacred power ceremony like the Incwala, but a celebration.

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The Umhlanga
Swazi Culture

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The Umhlanga (Reed Dance)

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