South African Festival: Inside Story of the Controversial Zulu Half Naked Dance Festival in Southern Africa / Africa News

Here's information about the Controversial Zulu Half-Naked Dance Festival in South Africa.

The Royal Reed Dance or better still know in the Zulu dialect as the Umkhosi woMhlanga is a popular festival ceremony for the Zulus in the Republic of South Africa, Swaziland and the Zulu people living in other parts of the southern Africa regions.

The interesting but very controversial festival comes of every year around mid-September and the festival attracts some 25,000 tourists across the globe to the Enyokeni Royal Palace in Nongoma which is located in the KwaZulu-Natal province in the northeastern part of the Republic of South Africa.

Nongoma is some 300 km north of the judicial capital Durban and also serves as the seat of the Nongoma Local Municipality in the province.

The festival was thought to have developed in the 1940s and 50s from the Umcwasho where young girls were placed in age regiments to ensure that their virginity is intact before they marry while some say the festival serves an opportunity for the Zulu king to choose a new wife from the many virgins who take part of the ceremony. But all these assertions about the genesis and purposes of the festival have not been verify and stand to be corrected.

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Before the festival begins each year in South Africa, girls come from all parts of the Zululand including Swaziland, Botswana and Pondoland. Pondoland is a natural region on the South African shores of the Indian Ocean. It is located in the coastal belt of the Eastern Cape province

Swaziland also celebrates its version of the festival but the major one is celebrated in the Enyokeni Royal Palace, Nongoma, in the Republic of South Africa.

All the girls who come to the Enyokeni Royal Palace and want to participate in the ceremony are required by tradition to undergo a virginity test before they are allowed to participate in the royal dance. This is where the controversy surrounding the festival begins.

The first controversy has to do with how real virgins will be identified by the person who is suppose to test for the girls’ virginity coupled with protest from some clan heads of the Zulu tribe, claiming that that the virginity test tends to drive young girls from participating in the festival making it somehow problematic but notwithstanding on this, the virgin girls are selected for the festival.

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The person to initiate the virgins is into the festival is the old Princess of the Zulu king, and she plays the lead role in the ceremony. The principal role of the princess is to teach the virgins how to behave when they start to date men, how to choose good husbands and how to treat their husbands when eventually they get married to them. She also teaches them how to maintain high standard of personal hygiene especially, around their pubic areas.

The virgin girls are known as “imbali” in the Zulu language and they are led to a river bud by the princess to cut a Reed (A Reed is a strong and long cane that grows around small rivers). The Reed cane is believed to be the symbol of the girls’ virginity.

The girls wear traditional attire known in the Zulu language as ‘izigege’ and ‘izinculuba’ which is some kind of short skirt that show their bottoms but their upper part including their breast is not covered. It is completely naked.

They also wear anklets, bracelets, necklaces, and colorful sashes. The sash has appendages of different color, and each color denote whether or not the girl is betrothed to a man or not.

Due to this semi nakedness of the girls, another controversy arises, various feminist activist groups have spoken vehemently against the festival as denigrating to womanhood as they claim including that it does not show decency and that some unscrupulous tourists ceased the opportunity to take pictures of the girls from close angle with high standard cameras and publish the pictures pornographic websites.

The procession begins at the riverside and with the princess leading the delegation, they march straight to the Enyokeni Royal Palace where the Zulu king is seated on his royal thrones in a very colorful and well costumed African ornaments.

It is believed superstitiously that if a virgin cane got broken before she reaches the king’s palace, then, that particular girl lied about her virginity and shall be removed from the ceremony.

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After the canes are handed to the king, the girls then took to dancing to show their success in the festival. They dance in front of the king and many dignitaries; some include government officials, foreign diplomats, special invited guests and many tourists who have trooped to the Enyokeni Royal Palace in Nongoma for this exciting festival.

The king then gives his blessing to the girls, congratulating them for keeping their virginity and some token of reward are presented to the girls to encourage up and coming young girls to also keep their virginity till marriage.

The festival is interesting, educative and inspiring, portraying Africa rich culture to the rest of the world despite its few shortcomings by its critics.

The Republic of South Africa is Africa’s largest economy in the tourism industry and experts say it may become one of the world’s top tourist destinations by 2020.

The South Africa tourism sector grew by 10.5 percent in 2012, surpassing global estimate in the tourism industry.

Issaka Adams / NationalTurk Africa Tourism News

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9 Comment

  1. Man would like to hide under so many guise to cover his evil intentions. This show of these girls is one them. They arose sensuality, but the organizers will say to the pure all is pure and any one who complain is evil inside of him. So we have to shut our mouth for now and await when true womanhood will revolt against all this evil called the beauty of the Nude. Please such kings should know that we have honour and respect our women, looking them as such is like looking at our mothers nakedness. Thanks

  2. Watching young and beautiful girls like this helps to prolong life. This is even an act of worship. When God created the woman, he looked at her shake her ass and breasts and He said, “this is beautiful”.

    I think we need this Nigeria, all over Africa and even the world over. I love good breasts.

  3. This is nosence…! And that’s why this is the very afected nation with STD such as HIV and so on!
    As a zulu girl, being neked in such occasion is her culture, do u people think it will cost a Zulu Girl a lot to walk around neked even though there is no Festival? What are the concenquences of this? More pregnancies before marriage, deseases….

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