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Published On: Fri, Sep 29th, 2017

Swazi King Mswati III picked 14th wife after annual reed dance ceremony

nsnbc : Swaziland’s King Mswati III picked his 14th wife after the annual Umhlanga or reed dance ceremony. The according to some lucky, according to others not so lucky virgin bride is the 19-year-old Siphele Mashwama who was chosen among thousands of maidens who participated.

Swaziland_Africa_King Mswati III _ 2017In Swaziland the king is traditionally mandated to pick a new wife every year from the virgins who take part in the traditional Umhlanga or reed dance; A chastity rite held at the Ludzidzini Royal Palace near Swaziland’s capital Mbabane. With Siphele Mashwama being the 14th wife of Mswati III it should be self-explanatory that “chastity” in this rite concerns young females, not males, and certainly not the king.

The 14th wife of the 49-year-old king is the daughter of Swaziland’s cabinet minister Jabulile Mashwama. Siphele is a graduate of the Waterford Kamhlaba World University College in Mbabane. But King Mswati doesn’t necessarily keep all he gets – and with a steady stream of virgin girls at hand, who can blame him for that – would some people say (we have learned the some ppl say technique from FOX News ;-).

Mswati III has divorced three wives in his career and he has 30 children. He became the Crown Prince in 1983 and then in 1986 he was crowned King at the age of 18. Mswati succeeded his father King Sobhuza II who ruled Swaziland from 1921 to his death in 1982. It was during the reign of Sobhuza II that the “chastity” – ehrm – rite was started with royal authorization.

Thousands of maidens participate in this annual event. In 2017 there reportedly were some 40,000 maidens who participated. During the festivities these maidens camp out at the Ludzidzini royal residence, where the Queen Mother lives. From there they march to the Engabezweni royal residence where they are commissioned by King Mswati III before going out to surrounding communities to cut tall reeds.

Placed according to age groups and led by male guards, the maidens put the reeds together and send them back to the royal residence the following day. The reeds are used to mend holes in the reed fences and buildings. After the work is done the maidens rest for a day and take baths mostly in the river. They then prepare their traditional costumes including bead necklaces, anklets, skirts and a sash.

The girls then dress up in their skirts and sash with their bosom exposed, as their customs stipulate. Holding the knives they used to cut the reeds as a symbol of their virginity, they march to the forecourt of the King’s palace where the royal family, guests, tourists and the public are seated. The maidens then put on display culture and tradition – and themselves of course -as they sing and dance for the King who chooses a new wife at the end of the ceremony.

The annual ceremony in Swaziland was created in the 1940 during the reign of Sobhuza II, according to Swazi officialdom to preserve Swazi  women’s chastity before marriage, serve the Queen Mother, and strengthen solidarity among the women as they work together. A less official interpretation would be that it is a “tradition” that helps oppress the sexuality of young girls and by extension boys while providing a steady supply of potential virgin brides for the royal household; To train girls to perceive “serving the Queen Mother” as “solidarity”, and to arrange marriages to reinforce oligarchical structures in Swaziland. But all of that being said – it would be a dishonest man who would claim that he wouldn’t want to be King for a day.

CH/L – nsnbc 29.09.2017

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