The Umhlanga (Reed Dance) is a traditional dance of Swaziland. The Kingdom of Swaziland (Umbuso weSwatini) is a country with population of 1.1 million in the south of Africa.

Thousands of young women from all parts of Swaziland perform the dance. The dance is organized in August when the weather is mild and the reed has reached its maturity.

What is the reason for creating this event? It is believed that it encourages young women to keep their virginity until reaching maturity for marriage.

The Umhlanga also prepares girls for the marriage itself. Before the start of dance girls, divided in groups, work on different issues like for example improving communicating skills. Also there are elder women present who advise young women on marriage related topics.

The day after the arrival of girls to the camps is a time for the first task. After the end of supper they start a long trip, on foot, to the place where they are going to pick the reed. The place is quite far always so they walk all night. Each girl can pick about ten reeds.


Next day, after breakfast, it is time for the girls to put on traditional clothes and jewelry. They put ligcebesha - a beaded necklace with colours of the Swazi flag; umgaco - colourful beads with woolly tassels which are hung from the left shoulder to the right hip; indlamu - low cut and short beaded skirt; emafahlawane - brown anklets with oval shaped attachments; umcwasho - tassels on the head. Umcwasho is of different colour depending who wears it – blue is for children, yellow for teenagers and red for more mature women.

After all dressed up young women take their reeds and walk to the royal village. Reed brought there is used to make wind breakers of the queen mother's house.

The whole event last for three days. One of them is the dance itself. The dance is performed at the stadium. Large audience, including royalty gathers there. The king Mswati III delivers a speech.

When the girls dance people from the audience can join too. People throw money at dancers’ feet to show that they are enjoying the dance. The king can choose one of the girls to become his wife.

The girls are not forced to join the dance. But local tribal chiefs have the rule that a girl who does not want to participate in the Umhlanga has to give some compensation. Usually the compensation is a cow.

The Umhlanga also exists in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. Local King Goodwill Zwelethini kaBhekuzulu organizes the event in his Enyokeni Palace at Nongoma. To participate girls have to pass a virginity test.