The Kingdom of Swaziland’s largest cultural festival, the Umhlanga, or Reed Dance, is set to take place from August 29, 2017, with the main day (Day 7) fixed for September 4. Filled with song and dance and graced by the Swazi king, the main day, which is also a public holiday in Swaziland, draws crowds from near and far to celebrate and share in all the festivities.
With traditions dating centuries back, the Reed Dance ceremony is an amazing spectacle. It is during the ceremony that the kingdom’s unmarried and childless females present their newly cut reeds to the Queen Mother to protect her residence. From time to time, the king makes use of the occasion to publicly court a prospective fiancée or Liphovela.
When the main day arrives, young women from all over Swaziland and beyond its borders congregate at 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 maidens, led by Swazi princesses, provide a sea of colour as they dance and sing, proudly carrying their reeds.
Residents of this mountainous kingdom are immensely patriotic about their culture and taking part in the festival is a proud and privileged moment for the entire family.
The highlight of the event is the reed-giving ceremony – one of Africa’s largest and most vibrant cultural sights. The maidens gather at Ludzidzini dressed in traditional attire, bright short beaded skirts with colourful sashes, dancing, singing and celebrating the unification of the kingdom’s women. His Majesty, King Mswati III, joins the celebrations to pay tribute to the maidens. At the end of the day, once all the maidens have presented their cut reeds, the rebuilding of the protective Guma (reed fence) around the Queen Mother’s homestead can begin.