DURBAN – The ancient Zulu tradition, Umkhosi woHlanga (the reed dance), which sees thousands of Zulu maidens gather at the Zulu royal place Enyokeni in Kwa Nongoma every September, will undergo some serious changes due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
This year’s event will only see 30 maidens participating, and the King’s keynote address will be live on social media platforms in an effort to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.
A statement issued by the royal family said that due to the national lockdown regulations all maidens who were expected to descend to the king’s residency on Saturday are called to observe this important day at their respective homes.
Royal Spokesperson Prince Thulani Zulu said: “His Majesty has requested the Department of Arts & Culture to work with oNomehlo (Maiden Guardians) in the whole province to identify at least 30 maidens who will symbolically partake and represent thousands that will this year not embark on the usual journey to eNyokeni Royal Palace this year.
“This is in keeping with the regulations of no more than 50 people assembling. The 30 maidens will join His Majesty in the campaign against gender-based violence and social ills.”
The Reed Dance is a four-day event and takes its name from the riverbed reeds. The reed-sticks are carried in a procession by thousands of young maidens who are invited to the King’s palace each year. Virginity testing (ukuhlolwa kwezintombi) is an ancient Zulu traditional practice that is regarded as an important rite of passage to womanhood.
It’s a custom the Zulu nation has in common with the Swazis‚ a nation that historians describe as their closest tribal cousins. In both nations, only virgins are supposedly allowed to take part in the Umkhosi Womhlanga to ensure that it remains ritually pure. The idea is that by remaining pure‚ the maidens are safe from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Tests can be conducted randomly at night or very early in the morning before they present reeds to the monarch.
This year’s reed dance ceremony will focus on gender-based violence. The chosen maidens will present the placards to His Majesty on behalf of all maidens led by the Zulu princess.
For LIVE updates on the Coronavirus pandemic, follow us on Twitter: @sacoronamonitor