Zulu maidens gather for the annual reed dance

Africa is a continent known for its immense cultural elements and pride in the aforementioned. This culture can range from the dress styles to the process of making a native dish amongst others. A feel of culture is also in the native dialect. With the dress, food and dialect, it is no secret that there has been the influence of modernity on African culture. A touch of civilisation has been added to the traditional way of doing things. This touch has the Western culture added to the African. Though Africa is one continent with a variety of cultural aspects, one part has been left almost untouched; dance.

Besides the language, food, dress, festival rites that are known African culture, there is also the African art. This includes music, painting, sculpture amidst others. One among the others is dance. Described by the Merriam Webster Dictionary to mean the movement of body in alignment to the rhythm of music, dance is one thing common among Africans. There is Bata dance in Nigeria, Khoisan dance in South Africa, adumu in Kenya and Rai in Morocco. An exception to this dance amidst other exceptions is the Zulu Reed Dance of South Africa.

The Mkhosi woMhlanga as referred to by the indigenes is a dance which in true sense is not just the movement of body to a beat rhythmically. It is way beyond that. The Zulu Reed Dance is in actuality a festival. A festival which lasts for 4 days in Spring, usually September. During the course of this cultural celebration, thousands come from places in South Africa, Africa and beyond Africa. The peak of the celebration takes place at the King of Zululand’s palace in KwaNyokeni Nongoma,.

The dance is one for maidens. Songs are sung and indeed there is the literal dance but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The maidens all dressed in colourful beads go to choose reed stick from the collected ones. This gives the dance its name. For Reed is one of the plenty natural blessings given to the Zulu. It is believed that the original ancestor of the land was by a reedbed, hence, the significance of the plant. Reeds are also used to build traditional huts and roofs in houses of famous person.

Headed by the princess, the maidens all march to the king’s palace. This march is in a joyous and celebration mood. Again, because she is the princess and the chief of maidens, she is the first to present her picked reed to the king. This action is done in silence. It signifies the retained high status of nature, the power of nature and the respect to the king. Following through, the other maidens do the same and shouts of joy and celebration is heard.

This action carried out is the rite of passage. A rite which has, in this case, ladies initiated into womanhood. For this reason, all the maidens participating are to be virgins. Hence, the reason for their joy during the festival. The invitation and welcome to the ceremony of a young maiden signifies honour and dignity. This festival is a means to keep the maidens untouched and advocate abstinence till marriage. For respect is given to the maidens present at the event.

During the ceremony , conversations are had and discussions held between old women, mothers and the young ladies. Culture, adulthood as a woman, sexually transmitted disease etc are all form their conversation. These conversations add to the special nature of the ceremony. It is a promotion of cultural heritage while still imbibing values in the present generation. It goes beyond just rites.

Though, the ceremony is graced and primarily for females, the men are not excluded. They join in the singing, dancing and celebration. Mock fighting in the ceremony is also done by the men. They are also appropriately dressed. One can say that the reed Zulu dance is one among the surviving ceremonies in Africa graced by over 10,000 people.

Fathia Abolore Yusuf

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November 14, 2021 11:25 am

I love this tips
Great job there for the exploration about our home,Africa