Strange tradition where Zulu And Swazi virgin girls dance nak*d for their king in annual reed dance. As part of the ceremony, the young women dance bare-breasted for their king, and each carries a long reed, which is then deposited as they approach the king.
The Reed Dance ceremony, is an annual Swazi and Zulu tradition held in August or September. In Swaziland, tens of thousands of unmarried and childless Swazi girls and women travel from the various chiefdoms to Ludzidzini to participate in the eight-day event.
Young women dance bare-breasted for their king
The women sing and dance as they parade in front of the royal family as well as a crowd of spectators
Girls undergo a virginity test before they are allowed to participate in a royal dance
In South Africa, the ceremony Umkhosi woMhlanga takes place every year in September, at the Enyokeni Royal Palace in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal. The girls come from all parts of Zululand, and in recent years there are also smaller groups from Swaziland, as well as more distant places such as Botswana and Pondoland. All girls are required to undergo a virginity test before they are allowed to participate in a royal dance, though in recent years the testing practice has been met with some opposition.
The girls wear traditional attire, including beadwork, and ‘izigege’ and ‘izinculuba’ that show their bottoms
The girls wear traditional attire, including beadwork, and ‘izigege’ and ‘izinculuba’ that show their bottoms. They also wear anklets, bracelets, necklaces, and colorful sashes. Each sash has appendages of a different colour, which denote whether or not the girl is betrothed.
As part of the ceremony, the young women dance bare-breasted for their king, and each carries a long reed, which is then deposited as they approach the king. The girls take care to choose only the longest and strongest reeds, and then carry them towering above their heads in a slow procession, up the hill to the palace. The procession is led by the chief Zulu princess, who takes a prominent role throughout the festival. If the reed should break before the girl reaches that point, it is considered to signal that the girl has already been sexually active.
King Mswati III of Swaziland & Her Royal Highness Princess Sikhanyiso Dlamini (left)
The King Mswati III of Swaziland
The ceremony was reintroduced by King Goodwill Zwelethini in 1991, as a means to encourage young Zulu girls to delay sexual activity until marriage, and thus limiting the possibility of HIV transmission. In 2007, about 30,000 girls took part to the event. The organisers of the ceremony have occasionally enforced strict rules on photographers, as some of them have been accused of publishing the pictures on pornographic websites. In past years, the event was attended by the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, and then Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Zweli Mkhize.
In Swaziland the girls gather at the Queen Mother's royal village, which currently is Ludzidzini Royal Village. After arriving at the Queen Mother's royal residence, the women disperse the following night to surrounding areas and cut tall reeds. The following night they bundle them together and bring them back to the Queen Mother to be used in repairing holes in the reed windscreen surrounding the royal village.
After a day of rest and washing the women prepare their traditional costumes consisting of a bead necklace, rattling anklets made from cocoons, a sash, and skirt. Many of them carry the bush knife they used to cut the reeds as a symbol of their virginity.
Her Majesty Queen Mother Indlovukazi of Swaziland
Today's Reed Dance Ceremony developed in the 1940s from the Umcwasho custom where young girls were placed in age regiments to ensure their virginity. Once they reached the age of marriage they would perform labor for the Queen Mother followed by dancing and a feast. The official purpose of the annual ceremony is to preserve the women's chastity, provide tribute labour for the Queen Mother, and produce solidarity among the women through working together.
The women sing and dance as they parade in front of the royal family as well as a crowd of spectators, tourists and foreign dignitaries. After the parade, groups from select villages take to the centre of the field and put on a special performance for the crowd. The King's many daughters and royal princesses also participate in the reed dance ceremony and are distinguished by the crown of red feathers in their hair.
In 2013, a young woman was seeking asylum in Britain after she spurned the advances of the polyamorous King Mswati III of Swaziland and refused to join his harem of 13 wives.
Miss Tintswalo Ngobeni caught the attention of the millionaire monarch
Tintswalo Ngobeni, 22, fled to England from the southern African nation as a teenager after she caught the attention of the millionaire monarch, a notoriously oppressive ruler known for his lavish lifestyle.
As part of Swazi custom, King Mswati III, 45, is permitted to choose a new bride every year, especially during the annual Reed Dance ceremony.
Miss Ngobeni, who now lives in Birmingham, was just 15 when the King made his advances after seeing her at the palace of his fourth wife, LaNgangaza. She said she was ‘terrified’ when she learned of his marriage intentions.
she said, "He started calling me at boarding school. He would ask me if I wanted to be a part of the royal family.
I had to keep quiet about my fears but I knew I didn't want to get married to him and have a life devoted to the king",
"His wives are kept in their palace, surrounded by bodyguards, and they can’t really go anywhere unless the king says so. The only thing they do is go to America once a year, as the king gives them a shopping allowance'.
Miss Ngobeni was forced to abandon a comfortable lifestyle in a private boarding school, as her aunt who was her chief guardian arranged the escape to England to join her mother, who moved to Birmingham five years earlier, fleeing an abusive husband.
Miss Ngobeni has become a vocal opponent of the Swazi regime
"I didn’t have a choice,’ she said. ‘Nobody has ever turned down the king or dares to disobey him, so I just disappeared."
Since her arrival in England, Miss Ngobeni has become a vocal opponent of the oppressive Swazi regime, where political opposition parties are banned and activists routinely arrested or assaulted.
However, Miss Ngobeni’s high-profile activities, including weekly protests outside the Swazi embassy in London with activist group Swazi Vigil, have caught the attention of the authorities in her home country and she now believes she is in more danger than ever.
"Recently I had news that people had been sent from Swaziland to come and get me, which really scares me. If I went back, I would be arrested or much worse as there are people there who are tortured, beaten up or killed for being politically active", She said.
Miss Ngobeni now lives in fear of having to return to Swaziland, after her first plea for political asylum in England in 2007 was denied in 2011. She was arrested and taken to an immigration detention centre after 18 months of reporting weekly to the authorities.
However, after pressure from the TUC and the office of Roger Godsiff, Labour MP for Birmingham, Miss Ngobeni was released and has now been granted an appeal by the Home Office.
18 years old Sindiswa Dlamini
"We were very pleased solicitors were successful in achieving a judicial review into Miss Ngobeni’s case." Mr. Godsiff said.
The Swaziland’s King Mswati III, who is following in his father’s footsteps, King Sobhuza, who had 70 wives and 400 children later choosed an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant as his 15th. wife in 2014.
According to his palace spokesman, the king has introduced to the nation his new liphovela (royal fiancee), 18 years old Sindiswa Dlamini.
The young woman graduated from Mbabane’s St. Francis High School last year and is a finalist in the Miss Cultural Heritage beauty pageant.
As part of Swazi custom, King Mswati III, 45, is permitted to choose a new bride every year.
Hence, thousands of young girls gather annually and dance for the king at a reed dance in order to give King Mswati III the opportunity to choose another wife.
The wedding only takes place once the chosen virgin bride falls pregnant.
His wives are kept in their palace, surrounded by bodyguards, and they can’t really go anywhere unless the king says so.
The only thing they do is go to America once a year, as the king gives them a shopping allowance.
The father of 27 children, 45-year-old King Mswati III was a guest at the William and Kate wedding as well as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations last summer.
Three wives left his household in recent years. The latest, Queen LaGija, fled the palace in 2012 claiming years of physical and emotional abuse.
Another Queen LaDube, was reportedly abused after she was caught in bed with the justice minister, a close friend of the king.
Mswati had married the queen when she was 16 in 2005.
His Royal Highness, King Mswati III of Swaziland
The king has also come under fire for his household’s lavish lifestyle.
Mswati reportedly has a personal fortune of around $200 million and the UN estimates that 70 percent of his 1.2 million subjects live below the poverty line.