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Umkhosi Womhlanga is a South-African Culture which Take’s Place in September

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In South Africa, this ceremony is known as Umkhosi woMhlanga and takes place every September at the Enyokeni Royal Palace in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal. The girls came from all over Zululand, and in recent years there have been small groups from Eswatini and more distant places like Botswana and Pondoland.

All girls must pass the virginity test before participating in the royal dance. Practice tests have encountered resistance in recent years.

The girls wore traditional clothes, including pearls and Izigege and Izinculuba, who showed their bums. They also wear colourful boots, bracelets, necklaces and wings. Each wing has a different colour attachment, which means whether the girl is engaged or not.

Umkhosi Womhlanga

As part of the ceremony, young women dance barefoot to their king, and each girl carries a long stick thrown away as they approach the king. The girls made sure to choose only the longest and strongest reed and then took them up the hill in a slow procession to the Enyokeni Palace. The procession was led by Putri Zulu, who played an important role throughout the festival. If the stick must break before the girl reaches this point, this is considered a sign that the girl has been s+xually active.

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King Goodwill Zwelethini reintroduced the ceremony in 1991 to encourage young Zulu girls to delay s+xual activity until marriage, reducing the possibility of HIV transmission.

In 2007 around 30,000 girls participated in the event. The ceremony organiser occasionally applies strict rules for photographers because some have been accused of posting photo rites on pornographic sites.

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Former South African President Jacob Zuma (himself Zulu) and former KwaZulu-Natal Prime Minister Zveli Mhize have attended the event in recent years.

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