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Swaziland prepares for the 2017 Reed Dance

The Kingdom of Swaziland’s largest cultural festival, known as the Umhlanga or Reed Dance, is set to take place from 29 August with the main day (Day 7) set to take place on the 4th of September. Filled with song and dance, and attended by the 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 this 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 her 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 cut reeds. 

Residents of this mountainous Kingdom are immensely patriotic about their culture and taking part in this 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 lll joins these 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.

The Umhlanga Festival bonds this small yet perfectly formed nation together. Its ever- increasing popularity defies the apparent decline of traditional cultures elsewhere in Africa. 

Witnessing this festival is a truly unique experience of Swaziland’s blend of ancient culture, pristine wilderness, year round wildlife and spirit of adventure!

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