Eleven maidens injured at Reed Dance ceremony

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nongoma - Eleven young women were involved in a stampede at the KwaZulu-Natal Royal Reed Dance ceremony at the weekend.

"Three of the maidens are in a critical but stable condition and all of them were taken to St Benedictine Hospital in Nongoma," the provincial Department of Arts and Culture said on Saturday.

According to the department the incident happened around noon at King Goodwill Zwelithini's Enyokeni Royal Residence, in Nongoma.

The department said it was still investigating the cause of the incident and wished the maidens who have been injured a speedy recovery.

Once a year in early September, invited maidens make their way to the King's royal residence, to perform a traditional dance for the Zulu King.

In its 25th year, the festival gets its name from the riverbed reeds, which are the central focus of this two-day event.

On the first day, each maiden carries a reed which has been cut from the riverbed, in a procession. Reeds reflect a deep mythical connection with the origin of the Zulu people.

According to tradition, the original ancestor emerged from a reed bed. They then take the reed to His Majesty the King, to symbolise their purity.

This year, the King's message, to the thousands of maidens and youth who gathered at the ceremony, was to abstain from sexual activities so that they can help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.

"If young people can focus in the cultural activities instead of sexual, they can help to stop the spread of this disease and build a generation free of HIV and AIDS," said His Majesty.

The King said culture plays a meaningful role in stopping the spread of the disease, adding that culture teaches young people how to conduct themselves and behavior responsibly.

Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Dr Zweli Mkhize also urged the maidens to continue with their cultural activities and respect themselves.

According to Zulu tradition, only virgins are permitted to take part in the festival to ensure that they are ritually 'pure'.

The second day of the ceremony, on Sunday, is marked by a colourful display of different dances by maidens from different villages around the province.

A dignified traditional ceremony, the reed dance festival is a vibrant occasion, which depicts the rich cultural heritage of the Kingdom of the Zulu and celebrates the proud origin of the Zulu people.

The reed dance festival is a solemn occasion for the young women, but also an opportunity to show off their singing, dancing and beadwork, the fruits of many months of excitement and preparation.

"The women of KwaZulu-Natal make some of the finest beadwork in Africa, and the Reed Dance is an especially vibrant and colourful occasion on account of the rich beadwork on display," said the department.

Thousands of guests attended the event including MEC for Arts and Culture Weziwe Thusi, MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs Nomsa Dube, Mayors, Inkosi Dalibhunga Mandla Mandela from the Eastern Cape and delegations from Swaziland.