Tight security at annual reed dance

2013-08-31 11:00

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Thousands of young Zulu women and girls have begun the annual Umkhosi Womhlanga (Reed Dance Festival) at King Goodwill Zwelithini’s Nyokeni Palace at Nongoma.

The stadium and adjacent area immediately at the foot of the hill on which the monarch’s residence is built have been turned into a tent town overnight for the festival, which runs until Monday.

Maidens from KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of the country dress in traditional attire and carry a reed, symbolising their virginity, to be presented to the king. The festival, which had fallen away over the years, was reintroduced by Zwelithini and has now become a key event on the province’s cultural calendar.

More than 60 000 maidens are expected to participate in this year’s event, which is run by the province’s department of arts and culture, with other departments providing life skills and other training for the participants over the course of the event.

Lethukuthula Mtshali, spokesperson for arts and culture, told City Press the festival would be run under strict security, with a large security and police contingent deployed to ensure there were no repeats of incidents a few years ago in which teenagers were kidnapped and raped.

Participants were registered at district level and were bused to Nongoma, where they live in a massive tent village which is cordoned off from the stadium where the monarch will address them later tonight. Representatives of government will also address them.

The first regiment of maidens have made their way up the hill to Nyokeni, where they are presented to the king at the palace gate.

“As part of the festival we have set up educational programmes for the youngsters to enlighten them about matters of life. Especially to make them aware about human trafficking. This has dominated not only the international countries but it’s also happening in South Africa. The use of substances, the dangers that transpire while using social networks and HIV/Aids. They need to know that not everyone you get to chat/engage with or you meet have their best interests at heart,” said Mtshali.

Tomorrow, the various regiments of maidens will dance for the king in the stadium.

Gugu Ndlovu (17) from Pietermaritzburg said she had decided to participate as she believed it was important to do so in terms of her culture.

“It is something to be proud of,” she said.

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