The Reed Dance
The Umhlanga, or Reed Dance, is one of the world's most colourful traditional ceremonies. It takes place over five days, starting with the girls cutting reeds in a swamp. They then march over the hills to a royal residence and by stages make their way to the main royal center of Ludzidzini. Here the reeds are piled up near the Queen Mother's residence in preparation for the main day. The final day is 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 symbolises the loyalty of the maidens. Visitors are welcome to observe this ceremony. Photography is permitted from your seat, this is not a sacred power ceremony like the Incwala, but a celebration. A powerful zoom or telephoto lens is a good idea to get detail - this ceremony is spectacular.
Swaziland Tourism Authority
Swaziland National Trust Commission - The Umhlanga or Reed Dance