The scarcity of the reed plant in eSwatini is hindering young maidens from attending the annual Reed Dance ceremony where they showcase their dancing skills in celebration of preserved virginity and upholding traditional teachings.
August is that time of the year when His Majesty King Mswati III commissions close to 100 000 maidens to participate in the cultural event that spans over a period of one week.
The timing of the event takes advantage of the fact that schools are closed around this time of the year, allowing school-going girls to participate in the iconic event.
The Reed Dance also allows the king an opportunity to propose to a maiden he may deem fit to join the royal household as his wife, even though he may not do that every year.
On Wednesday the king called out for maidens to prepare for this year’s dance which starts from August 27, 2019 to September 3, 2019.
During the public call, the king, through maidens overseer Nonduduzo Zubuko, warned community chiefs not to release very young maidens because the reed plant was not becoming scarcer, forcing maidens to walk longer distances to fetch the plant.
The closest reed source is about eight kilometres away while the farthest is about 20 kilomtres away from the maidens’ camp area.
The plant is used for a certain ritual which includes building barriers around the Ludzidzini Royal Residence, which is the main palace also considered as the king’s parental home.
The shortage of the plant has previously been attributed to drought and other climatic factors, something that has led to several calls by environmentalists to have the areas where the reed is sourced, protected and preserved throughout the year.
This year’s Reed Dance schedule is as follows: August 27 – arrival of maidens at the Ludzidzini Royal Residence and registration; August 28 – maidens go out to different places to fetch the reed; August 29 – maidens cut the reed; August 30 – they return; August 31 – maidens rest; September 1 – maidens deliver the reed at the palace’s main yard; September 2 – maidens participate in the maid dance at the stadium in the presence of the King, royal family and guests from all walks of life.
On September 3 all maidens return to their respective homes, marking the end of the ceremony.