Every year in September thousands of young women converge at KwaNyokeni Palace, one of the royal residencies of King Goodwill Zwelithini. Here they present the King with reeds as a symbol of their purity – it is said that if the reed that they choose breaks, it is a sign that they have lost their virginity, and cannot take part in the ritual dance. Aside from being a day of celebration where young girls show off their beadwork and traditional dance skills, it has also in recent years become an opportunity to highlight the importance of sexual health, helping to guard against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV.
The Reed Dance is one of the highlights of the Zulu cultural calendar, with girls preparing for the event months in advance. Last weekend close to a thousand maidens took part in Siyaya Emhlangeni in Vryheid, where Queen KaMathe addressed the participants. ‘Siyaya emhlangeni’ translates to “We are going to the reed dance”, and is a celebration in anticipation of the main event that will take place next month.
Image courtesy of the KZN Department of Arts and Culture