Every year at Umhlanga, known more commonly in English as the eSwatini (Swaziland) Reed Dance Festival, thousands of unmarried women and girls pay homage to the King and the royal family in an eight-day ceremony full of dancing, rites and rituals.
According to local newspaper reports, more than 100,000 girls and women from all over Swaziland, as well as Swazi girls from South Africa and other neighboring countries, participate in the festivities.
The costume that the girls wear varies according to their social status. The costumes of girls from the royal family are more elaborate than those worn by the other girls.
At a minimum, all the girls will wear a sash called an umgaco and a small skirt called an indlamu. The girls are discouraged from wearing any underwear underneath the indlamu.
Other possible costume elements include a whistle, bird feathers worn in the hair, and colored tassels hanging from the umgaco, all of which hold special symbolic meaning. When dancing on the last day, they will hold a knife in one hand and a shield in the other.
This is the first day of dancing, which takes place from about 3pm to 5pm. First, the girls present their reeds to the Queen Mother, leaving them outside her residence as a form of tribute labor. They then march to the stadium and perform their dance, each regiment singing a different song.
This is the second and final day of dancing. This time, the King is present. Traditionally, he chooses a new wife from among the dancers, although the last time he did this was in 2013. The King already has 15 wives and 35 children.
The King issues a command for about 20 to 25 cows to be slaughtered. Each girl collects a piece of meat from the slaughtered cows and then returns home.