The maidens ignored the wind, which blew up a dust storm and was a bit chilly at times, and went on and danced passing in front of Their Majesties, guests and the throngs of spectators who crammed the Ludzidzini arena for this colourful event that has become a major draw card for the country.
This annual event has undoubtedly become a tourist attraction as people from all over the world descend to the Kingdom to witness it while also taking home its memories through photographs and videos.
Yesterday’s event marked the main day of the ceremony which started last Tuesday with the girls registering and on Wednesday the King commissioned the imbali to cut reed at Bhamsakhe and Mpisi farm.
On Sunday, the maidens danced before the King and people, including the tourists who had come out to witness. By 3pm, the spectators were already seated. They kept pouring in such that some were seated on the stairway while others were standing throughout the duration of the event.
The maidens marched in front of the King in their different groups donned in their colourful regalia. They marched two times in front of the King before making umkhumbi, where the singing and dancing continued.
The favourite song of the day, which was sang for a long period was titled yangena imbali yangena intfutfuko (here comes maidens and development starts). Another song, which was also a hit on the day, was titled asiwafuni emaparty (we do not want political parties in Swaziland), which was also sung extensively.
Imbali is expected to return to their respective homes today after successfully participating in the cultural event.
The King, accompanied by libutfo, did the kudlalisa tradition in front of the imbali, who were really excited to see His Majesty at close range judging from their shouting in appreciation. He took about 15 minutes.
Fewer foreign maidens at this year’s Umhlanga
It seemed participation of foreign maidens at this year annual reed dance dropped when compared to last year.
Yesterday only one group which was said to be from the Eastern Cape, joined the throngs of Swazi maidens during the main day.
On Sunday there were about two foreign groups from outside the borders of Swaziland that participated in the event, a majority were from the Zulu kingdom in the KwaZulu Natal.
Their no show could be attributed to the fact that the Swazi annual reed dance ceremony coincidenced with the Zulu kingdom annual event, which in the past was held after the Swazi umhlanga.
Last year there were several groups from South Africa and some were from Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Princess steals the show…again
Imbali leader Inkhosatana Sikhanyiso was once again a centre of attraction with her modernised music and dance moves as she did the giya dance.
The princess was the last one to take centre stage after her sisters led by Princess Temaswati. It seemed people were eagerly waiting for the performance of the princess as soon as she took the stage at about 5.50pm, they sat up and concentrated.
She was easy to spot in the emerging dusk with her colourful indlamu and umgaco, that had glittering gold trimmings setting her apart from the rest of the imbali. At the start of her dance routine she danced the moonwalk made famous by Michael Jackson.
She started off dancing to a recorded song which said ‘lelive leNgwenyama bafuna kulitsatsa ngeke balinuke (the country belongs to the King and they want to take over but they will not get it). She debuted this song during last year’s reed dance. His brothers came out to show appreciation for their elder sister by doing the giya dance in front of her.
The princess went on to dance to a song titled sukuma mbali phumela ebaleni (stand up and be seen maidens). She then danced to the famous giya song asugiye mbali yemaswati and lomhlaba wakitsi ngeke bawunuke (the land belongs to us they will never get it).
Sikhanyiso also danced to her now famous song ‘mine ngilitjitji phaca, make lohlolako wota utobona’ (I am a virgin, please come and inspect whether I am still pure) and she danced bending backwards falling to the ground.
She went on and danced until she returned to her group.
Mandla Mandela, Tembe king among guests
Mvezo Chief Mandla Mandela was part of the dignitaries who attended this year’s annual Umhlanga ceremony.
He was part of those who accompanied the King when he went to do the kudlalisa tradition. King Mabhudu of kaTembe also came through to witness this year’s event.
On Sunday, former Malawian president Bakili Muluzi formed part of the King’s guests as he also graced the opening of the Swaziland Trade Fair on Saturday.
As it has become a norm that some South African celebrities attend the annual event, this year it was not the case as none were spotted amongst the crowd who have come to watch the main day. However, tourists came out in their numbers as the press control officers had a tough time trying to control the people who were interested in taking pictures of the action. They lined up next to the arena and they took special interest when Princesses Sikhanyiso and Temaswati passed with their entourage.
There was also interest in the security forces imbali, especially the police and correctional services, who had choreographed dance moves and a colourful regalia which set them apart.
Ban on offensive songs heeded
As Princess Sikhanyiso had asked maidens not to sing offensive songs, they just did that and obeyed the order.
On Thursday when cutting the reed, the princess told the maidens that offensive songs would not be tolerated during the reed dance, this year.
She said all maidens were expected to compose songs inspired by Christianity and general facts about the Swazi culture. The princess is a devout Christian.
Indeed, the girls heeded to the call as they sang positive songs and one that seemed to be a favourite on the day was titled yangena imbali yangena intfutfuko (here come maidens and here comes the country development). It seemed to be the favourite as they sang it for a long time when passing before the King and the crowd, who were watching.
They also sang the song saying asiwafuni emaparty ascabanisa bantfu (we do not want political parties because they bring confusion).
The princess said maidens were expected to compose songs that do not have offensive phrases because the reed dance was about positive character building.