Star For Life was invited to take part in the 32nd annual Zulu reed dance (Umkhosi woMhlanga), with over Fifty Thousand maidens from around the country and smaller groups from Swaziland attending this colourful and cultural celebration, that promotes respect for young women, with the aim of encouraging them to delay sexual activity until marriage, and thus limiting the contraction of HIV.
Star for Life team participating in the celebration
The reed dance plays a significant part of Zulu heritage in reflecting diverse African custom. It instills a set of pride, belonging and identity among the youth.
The young women wear traditional attire including beadwork, izigege and izinculuba that show their bottoms. They also wear anklets, bracelets, necklaces and colourful sashes; each sash has appendages of different colours, which denote whether or not the girl is betrothed. This attire symbolizes African beauty at its best.
During the ceremony, Young women dance bare-breasted to the delight of their king, royal subjects and guests. Only virgins are permitted to take part in the ceremony.
Each maiden carries a long reed from the river, towering above her head in a slow procession up the hill to Enyokeni palace, which is then deposited as they approach the king.
Maidens carrying reeds inside Enyokeni Palace
The king’s speech is a direct and forthright message on the expected mores and traditions of the Zulu nation. Promoting abstinence before marriage and educating people about the importance of knowing your status when you are involved in a relationship or about to get married.
During his speech, King Goodwill Zwelithini said: “Without the young women present here today, this uMhlanga would not have been possible, so I wish to thank you for giving of your time and promoting what is so special to our nation. I encourage you to keep on doing so. We depend on you to be the future of this nation, because of you we have high hopes to stop this killer disease called AIDS.”
King Goodwill Zwelithini guarded by South African Police Officers