Umhlanga (Reed Dance)
This is the Kingdom of Eswatini’s best known cultural event, and has a more open feel than the Incwala. In this eight-day ceremony, young girls cut reeds, present them to the Queen Mother (Indlovukazi) – ostensibly to repair the windbreak around The Royal Residence and then dance in celebration. Up to 40,000 girls take part, dressed up in brightly colored attired – making it one of the biggest and most spectacular cultural events in Africa.
The proper festivities kick off on day six, when dancing gets under way in the afternoon. Each group drops their reeds at the Royal Residence arena and then moves to the main stadium, where they dance and sing their songs. The dancing continues on day seven, which marks the last day of the Reed Dance Ceremony.
Today the Umhlanga is as well attended as ever. Indeed, cultural historians marvel at how its ever-increasing popularity in the Kingdom of Eswatini and international, defies the apparent decline of traditional culture elsewhere. It offers the visitor a unique experience. There are no special visitor arrangements, except for a special grandstand to accommodate visiting dignitaries – all visitors are well catered for and informed of all protocol arrangements, permits are required only for the official photographers or journalist to cover the event.
The event takes place around the last week of August / first week of September. The dates for the event are released relatively close to the time as they derive from ancestral astrology.