Dates Announced for Swaziland's Umhlanga Reed Dance

The dates have been announced for this year’s Umhlanga – the famous Reed Dance in Swaziland. The Reed Dance is a traditional dance and ceremony over 8 days where up to 40 000 Swazi maidens gather and dance for the Queen Mother. It is one of the biggest and most spectacular cultural events in Africa.

Dates for 2012 are 27th August to the 3rd of September with the main public days 2nd and 3rd of September.

This Swazi cultural event is performed as a tribute to the Royal Family and dates back centuries in time. Taking place over a week, it is largely private, however its final two days are open to the public. Thousands upon thousands of maidens dress up in brightly coloured attire and sing, dance together as they deliver the reed or umlanga to the Royal Residence. Their enjoyment of this ceremony is quite apparent as they use the opportunity of bonding with girls of similar ages from across the country.

As the maidens dance, warriors and other spectators often join the dance kugiya or throw money at their feet in appreciation of their skill. A traveller lucky enough to witness this event will appreciate its special purpose in bonding the nation, instilling good morals (virginity is essential for attendance) and allowing rural girls to travel outside of their home areas. It is a massive logistical mission for the Swazi government, but a truly awe-inspiring end result.