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Umhlanga Reed Dance in 2019

Eswatini (Swaziland) National Holiday observed in eSwatini (Swaziland)


Returning with the cut reeds during Umhlanga

When is Umhlanga?

How long until Umhlanga reed dance?
This holiday next takes place in 288 Days.
Dates of Umhlanga reed dance
Year Weekday Date
2020 Monday
2019 Monday
2018 Monday
Duration
1 Day
Summary
A traditional ceremony where up to 40 000 Swazi maidens gather and dance for the Queen Mother

The Umhlanga or Reed Dance is national holiday in eSwatini (Swaziland).

This is the largest cultural festival in the Kingdom. It lasts for a week, with the last day known as the main day, which is the public holiday.

The event usually takes place around the last week of August or the first week of September. The dates of the event are released relatively close to the time as they are based on ancestral astrology. The main day is always a Monday. In our list of dates, we show an estimated date for future years.

History of Umhlanga

In this festival, whose traditions date back centuries, the Kingdom’s unmarried and childless females congregate at the royal residence of the Queen Mother in Ludzidzini. Up to 40,000 girls dressed in traditional attire; bright short beaded skirts with colourful sashes take part in the ceremony, making it one of the biggest and most spectacular events in Africa. They head out in groups to the riverbanks (some march over 30 km) and using sharp knives cut tall reeds and bring them back to the Royal Homestead. During the ceremony the young maidens, led by the Swazi princesses then present the newly cut reeds to the Queen Mother to protect her residence. The custom began as an annual task to use the reeds to make repairs on the windbreaks (reed fences) round the royal residence.

After parading back with the reeds, dancing and music to celebrate the ceremony then takes over. This begins on the afternoon of the 6th day and continues on the 7th day, the main day, when the King attends and crowds gather to join in the festivities.

Unlike other traditional cultural festivals in Africa, the Umhlanga Festival continues to grow in popularity and the people of this mountainous Kingdom remain patriotic about their culture and this festival.

The King sometimes makes use of the festival to publicly court a prospective fiancée or Liphovela. He currently has 15 wives. His father had over 70.

Sources: The Kingdom of eSswatini


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