Friday, September 4, 2009


Am I the only one to have been surprised by the near total lack of interest by the international media in this year’s Umhlanga Reed Dance?

In the past there has been TV, radio and newspaper coverage of the tale of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and his dancing bare-breasted maidens, complete with speculation that one of the lucky virgins will get chosen to be the king’s next wife.

I’ve written often enough in the past about how the media have covered the Reed Dance (click here) in the past so I won’t repeat myself here.

The Swazi media, of course, gave extensive coverage. The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, claimed that 130,000 maidens danced. We should take this figure with a degree of caution, since the South Africa Press Association (SAPA) put the total at a more modest 80,000.

The SAPA report was the only one I saw in the international media. Among the dancers was a nine-year-old girl from South Africa, but SAPA does not say if she was bare breasted or not.

Unless there was any doubt about what the true purpose of the Reed Dance is, consider this extract from SAPA’s report.

‘During the four-hour event, children sang songs which glorified Mswati and condemned his enemies.

‘”This land is your land our king, your enemies want to destroy you,” they sang.

If you are suffering withdrawal symptoms because of a lack of pictures from the Red Dance you might like to look at this video, posted on Joe Dodson’s Adventures in Swaziland blog and presumably shot by him.

No comments: