Throngs of Swazis converged at the Ludzi-dzini royal residence in Swaziland for the annual reed dance festival on Sunday. The highlight of the festival as usual was the parading of some 98,000 Swazi maidens. The event locally known as Umhlanga, is aimed at encouraging maidens to preserve their virginity until marriage and to also show unity among the girls.
It takes long hours of dance. Songs accompany the “shimmy”, a dance that involves movement of the shoulders from the front to the rear without moving the bust.
This traditional dance is a symbol of purity. The girls then present their reeds to the queen mother, which are used to fence around her residence.
Women that are engaged or have experienced sexual intercourse are strictly not allowed to participate. And many wish they could stay chaste for a little longer.
At the end of the festival, the King proceeds to pick one of the girls as his wife. This ritual is also practiced in South Africa among the Zulu.
Swaziland is Africa’s last absolute monarch.
It has been ruled by King Mswati III since 1986 after he took over from his father, King Sobhuza II, who reigned for 60 years.