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Durban - In a cross-cultural gesture unmatched in South African history, a thousand maidens from KwaZulu-Natal’s Indian community are to participate with their Zulu counterparts in next year’s Reed Dance, hosted by King Goodwill Zwelithini.
ANC member of the provincial legislature Omie Singh revealed the plan during this year’s ceremony at Enyokeni Palace in Nongoma at the weekend. Thousands of young women took part in the event, which celebrates sexual abstinence.
The initiative to involve the Indian community has the backing of businessman Vivian Reddy and the blessing of the king.
Singh and Reddy brought a small group of Indian women from Durban, some dressed in traditional Zulu attire, to the palace. They gave the king gifts of whisky.
The initiative to involve other cultures, in what is regarded as one of the biggest events on the Zulu calendar, is part of an outreach programme, Zazi, formed by one of the king’s wives - Queen Thandi - and Reddy and Singh.
The idea is to encourage all cultures to understand and become involved in the Reed Dance or Umkhosi woMhlanga, which was revived by King Zwelithini 22 years ago. One of his motives was to encourage young women to keep their virginity until they married and, in so doing, protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Singh said: “Bringing this small group of young women this year is just the start. The history of the Reed Dance will change for ever.”
Queen Thandi said all young women, from all races and cultures, were welcome to take part.
The chief executive of the Bayethe Trust Foundation, Rhana Naicker, said Indian community leaders had made the decision in an effort to create greater cultural tolerance in the province.
Naicker said the Indian women who would take part next year would not be required to undergo the traditional virginity tests. Their own cultural groups would be allowed to vouch for their virginity.
The president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, said he was unaware of the plan, but that he supported the idea of “cross-cultural integration”.