REED DANCE QUESTIONABLE OVER THE YEARS
By: Sthembile Shabalala
The Reed Dance known as “Umkhosi womhlanga” is an annual Swazi and Zulu Cultural event where thousands of maidens celebrate their virginity. The reed dance takes place every
September in commomeration of the cultural month, in Nongoma north of KwaZulu- Natal.
Umkhosi womhlanga was created in the 1940s in Swaziland and introduced in South Africa by the current King Goodwill Zwelithini, in 1991.
The celebration takes place in a royal kraal of the Zulu King where all girls have to undergo virginity testing before they can participate in the royal dance.
According to the elders, the reed dance is a symbol of purity and a way to encourage young women not to be sexually active until marriage, as it helps them avoid sexual diseases such as
STIs and HIV/AIDS. However there has been conflict and misinterpretation when it comes to this practice that even non-virgins attend this ritual too. Rumours have it that women doing
virginity testing are paid by the non-virgins.
Gogo Shange, who does virginity testing, says that the culture is now disrespected and taken as a joke by people, because of these unsettling rumours which she does not condone.
“I have been testing girls since the late 90s; some of the girls are already married now.
I assure you all my girls are still pure because they are tested by me and other women once in every two weeks.
It pains me when parents start pointing fingers because of what they hearing the streets which is untrue. I am a cultural woman and would never allow such
disgrace in my life,” said Shange.
Parents like Zandile Ngcobo, believes that a child should be the one to decide if she wants to do virginity testing or not because at the end of the day the body belongs to the child.
“I am a modern woman, but I am not against virginity testing.
I am a mother of two girls and both of them have never went for a reed dance and I respect their choice.
It is a beautiful thing that is building the nation however when a child loses virginity the whole world then knows, now that is something I personally do not want to go through,” said Ngcobo.
In September 2013 more than sixty girls were injured and ten died after a bus crashed on the way from the Reed Dance in Nongoma.
That tragic accident left people shocked and parents worried about sending their children to the Reed Dance.
However girls like Lungile Tenza, from Umlazi said that it will take more than an accident to stop her from going to the Reed Dance.
“I am 27 years old this year. I have been going to the Reed dance since I was 12.
I do not have a specific age as to when I will lose my virginity.
I must say it has not been easy for me, because there are lots of temptations out there but I am still holding myself for my future husband who I believe God is still preparing for me,” explained Tenza.
Sikhosiphi Mngoma, a student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal said that her grandmother has done a good job raising her and teaching her how a girl must behave.
“I do not see a reason why I should prove to the whole world that I am still a virgin by showing my body.
This virginity testing is corrupted now, because I know many girls who attend the Reed Dance but lost their virginity long ago.
I am a proudly virgin and prefer keeping that private,” said Mngoma.