THE reed dance was not only exciting and daunting. It was humbling.

THE reed dance was not only exciting and daunting. It was humbling.

Before I went I believed that this sacred celebration demeaned young virgins. I was wrong.

When I arrived at Enyokeni, our hostess, Princess Nqoba, put us up at her palace. She joined the girls collecting reeds. Later, we joined in the song and dance.

It was then that I fell in love with my culture. We bowed our heads in reverence when queen, uNdlunkulu herself spoke to us.

We then practised for the next day. As we sang I sensed a spirit of togetherness, an invisible thread of sisterhood between each girl.

The next day we prepared ourselves for the festivities. I appreciated being a black woman with my "sisters" as I gracefully wore my neckpiece and belt. We took pride in ourselves. Nobody felt insecure or unattractive because their waist wasn't thin enough or their thighs were thunderous.

Led by the princess, we made our way to the reeds. After she picked her reed we followed suit. We walked to the venue, where we were to dance and pay homage to the king. My reed was rather long and very heavy. My feet were aching, my back was burning, and my throat was parched. At our destination we put down our reeds and the dance began. The festivities ended late.

I learnt so much about my culture and how it is misunderstood. For me the reed dance does not only symbolise purity in the sense of not knowing a man, but its innocence in being who you want to be, how you want to be and where you want to be regardless of what society and the world say.

I can't describe how proud I felt to walk around bare-breasted and have men and women support my stance to remain pure until the right time comes. I am glad I went. I came back loving my life and myself even more.