Is this Africa’s most famous cultural event?

The kingdom of Swaziland rarely makes it to the news and very few people even know where it is, but at the end of August sees it host one of the most famous cultural celebration ceremonies in Africa. King Mswati III has just released the dates for the 2016 Annual Reed Dance Festival and the 8-day celebration will begin on August 23rd.

Young women from across the kingdom and even beyond the Swazi borders will start their preparations to attend the royal residence in Ludzidzini. The Reed dance ceremony is a centuries-old tradition where the Kingdom’s unmarried and childless females present their newly cut reed to the Queen Mother to protect her residence. The King sometimes makes use of the occasion to publicly court a prospective fiancée or Liphovela.

Maidens gather in groups at the riverbanks to cut and collect and bind their reeds. Tens of thousands, led by Swazi princesses, dance and sing in procession, dressed in traditional attire, proudly carrying their reeds. The Swazi people are very proud of their culture and taking part in the Festival is an honour and a privileged moment for all the family.

The event culminates in the reed-giving ceremony – which is one of Africa’s largest and most colourful cultural spectacles. The bright short beaded skirts with colourful sashes reveal their bare breasts to dance and sing and celebrate the unification of the Kingdom’s women, with the King joining the celebrations to pay tribute to the maidens. The reeds are presented to the Queen Mother, Ndlovukazi, and used to rebuild the the protective Guma (reed fence) around her homestead.

This traditional event allows spectators, but visitors are far outnumbered by participants. Our Kaya Swaziland volunteers are beside themselves with excitement for the ceremony in a couple of weeks time. Maybe next year, you can be one of those! Check out Kaya’s Swaziland projects to be there for the celebrations in 2017!