September 2022 saw the return of the Zulu reed dance festival. A cultural joy, It is a long-standing tradition to hold this annual ritual to honour sexual purity and to encourage young females to abstain from having sex. The ritual is a customary rite of femininity that dates back to a time when the monarch would choose new spouses from among his subjects.
Tens of thousands of women, also known as maidens, take part in the “reed dance” in the KwaZulu-Natal region, which opens into the Indian Ocean, every September, marking the beginning of the southern hemisphere spring. The celebrations this year were widely anticipated since it was MisuZulu’s first time to preside over the reed dance and it was the first time the dance had been held since the Covid-19 epidemic broke out.
Although shrouded by the cloud of an ongoing succession battle within the Zulu royal family, this years procession was officiated by the 47-year-old new head of South Africa’s largest ethnic group is also known by his official title as MisuZulu kaZwelithini.
He was recognised as monarch at a traditional ceremony last month following the death last year of his father King Goodwill Zwelithini, who had reigned for 50 years.
It is important to mention that the ‘reed festival’ is condemned by rights advocates who say it demeans and invades the privacy of the young women taking part, as prior to the reed dance participants have their genitalia inspected. However, the practice is defended by traditional doctor and virgin inspector Nomagugu Gobese who exclaims that is accepted across different societal classes.