I HAVE never been so happy and proud of myself and my culture as I was over the weekend. For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to participate in the Zulu Royal Reed Dance.
Though I could not go as far as picking the reed from the river and presenting it to King Zwelithini Zulu as a sign of my purity, which would have been illegal, I had a personal experience of what it feels like to be part of the event.
On Friday I travelled to Eshowe in northern KwaZulu-Natal to join a group of maidens from Ubuhle base Habane, who were preparing for the reed dance. They had all been tested to see if they were virgins a week before the ceremony and had received their certificates - their ticket to the reed dance.
The group was led by an elderly woman, Zodwa Khumalo, and her two assistants Thembelihle and Mpumi Mpungose, known as amaqhikiza. Their duty was to prepare us for what was expected of us when we got to the royal residence.
We gathered at KwaBulawayo, where all the maidens from Eshowe convened before departing to Nongoma. We sang and danced as we waited for the sun to set. When the buses arrived, virginity certificates were checked by the elders for the last time to avoid any embarrassment later.
The maidens then left for Nongoma and I remained behind because I did not have the required certificate. But I joined the group the next morning after they had picked the reeds from the river and presented them to the king.
I would have loved to present the king with a reed but circumstances did not allow me. Had I taken a chance I would have been fined a cow for disrespecting the king and all the maidens. Nevertheless, I had a great time.