By Nokunceda Magagula
Imbali from Shiselweni region were a marvel to watch as they delivered the reed and danced before Their Majesties. Imbali from the Shiselweni region answered His Majesty’s summon and thousands of the maidens gathered at the Mbangweni Royal Residence to deliver the reed they came with from their respective chiefdoms. The reed is then used as windbreakers in the palace.
The three-day celebration began on Friday when Imbali was ferried by bus from their chiefdoms to Mbangweni royal residence for registration. On that day Imbali arrived in their different groups singing one song which asks His Majesty to open the gates as they have arrived, Imbali was welcomed by Lutsango who gave them advice on how they should conduct themselves as they would be residing in the palace for the duration of Umhlanga.
Regardless of weather predictions, Saturday was the day of delivering the reed before His Majesty Imbali came all out. At around 14:50 Imbali led by Princess Nkosiyenzile who was standing in for Princess Sakhizwe began delivering the reed before the King, Indlovukazi, Emakhosikati, Princes as well as the whole royal family at large.
Princess Nkosiyenziwe had the honor of being the first to place her reed near the royal kraal, and she was soon joined by the other princesses and the rest of the Imbali. His Majesty observed with a proud and appreciative smile as he witnessed the collective efforts of the maidens in presenting their beautifully adorned reeds. This moment underscored not only the King’s pride but also his deep appreciation for the dedication and hard work that the maidens had invested in making this traditional offering as exquisite as it was.
After the throngs of Imbali were done delivering the reed, they went down to the stadium where they waited for Their Majesties to arrive so that they could showcase their dancing skills before them.
At around 16:10pm the sun came out as His Majesty graced the stadium, leading the magnificent Emajaha regiment. The atmosphere was electric, with thousands of Emaswati who had gathered to witness this historic moment, erupting in thunderous applause, their joy palpable as they caught sight of their beloved King.
With regal grace, His Majesty took his seat beside Indlovukazi, symbolizing the unity and strength of the monarchy. As the anticipation reached its zenith, the Imbali, clad in vibrant attire, commenced their match-passing dance, their synchronized steps and colorful attire painting a vivid scene of tradition and celebration. The entire scene was a testament to the unbreakable bond between the King and his people, a bond that transcended time and resonated with profound reverence and jubilation.
First to pass was the Juluka regiment, led by Princess Nkosiyenziwe and Interim Indvuna Bongiwe Hlatshwako, who set the tone as they paraded first. Their song celebrated the birth of His Majesty, emphasizing it as a blessing bestowed by Indlovukazi, and expressed deep gratitude for the independence of Eswatini.
Their heartfelt performances resonated with the significance of this momentous occasion.
Following Juluka, Imbali groups from Eswatini Umbutfo Defence Force (EUDF), Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS), and His Majesty Correctional Services (HMCS), as well as Imbali from various chiefdoms, continued the procession. Their presence underscored the unity of various sectors in Eswatini, all converging to pay homage to their monarch and celebrate the rich tapestry of culture, tradition, and independence in the nation.
. . . KING’S ‘KUDLALISELA’ BRINGS JOY TO IMBALI
Imbali showed extreme excitement as His Majesty King Mswati III did the kudlalisela which is a sign of showing appreciation to Imbali.
His Majesty, accompanied by his regiment, Emajaha, dedicated nearly half an hour to express profound gratitude to the maidens. They performed a traditional song that passionately conveyed the sentiment of “giving the King his shield” as a symbol of appreciation for the regiment.
With grace and humility, the King personally visited each group of maidens, acknowledging their dance performances. The air was filled with exuberant cheers and praises from Imbali as the King showed his appreciation, clearly echoing the immense joy this act brought to the maidens.
This heartfelt interaction between the King and the maidens not only symbolized the deep respect and admiration for their cultural contributions but also showcased the reciprocity between the monarchy and its people. It was a poignant moment where tradition, unity, and celebration converged, leaving a lasting impression on all in attendance.
As the King went back to his seat Imbali continued singing ummiso songs and dancing, Emakhosikati and other Lutsango were also seen appreciating Imbali. In between ummiso dance maidens from outside the country which are called ‘Silomo sematjitji’ took the stage, the maidens included those from Chief Sihlase Tsabedze of Phongolo and those under Chief Sibongiseni.
Upon that the solo dance called Kugiya began, which was opened by interim Indvuna, she was followed by the different tindvuna of the Shiselweni Chiefdoms. Princess Mazwezulu followed to showcase her solo dance. Princess Nkosiyenzile closed the solo dance with a storm.
. . .SHISELWENI UMHLANGA CONCLUDES ANNUAL REED FESTIVAL
As the Shiselweni Umhlanga came to an end on Sunday, it symbolizes the conclusion of this annual historic event.
The reed dance festival began in August when the King summoned Imbali to Ludzidzini residence. Throngs of imbali turned up for the 7 days event, where they went to cut the reed at Mpisi farm and Bhamsakhe and returned with it at the Ludzidzini Royal Residence. Imbali presented the reed to their Majesties and danced before the nation and tourists from outside the country.
The reed dance which was held in August attracted many tourists, as well as exclusive King’s guests including Former president of South Africa Jacob Zuma, King Letsie III of the Kingdom of Lesotho, and former president of Botswana Ian Khama among others.
The Shiselweni Umhlanga, a renowned cultural celebration in Eswatini, witnessed a significant and vibrant turnout, with the attendance of newly elected Members of Parliament. For many of them, it marked their inaugural experience at this extraordinary event, infusing fresh enthusiasm and perspective. Additionally, the presence of newly elected senators added to the significance of the occasion, showcasing the importance of cultural traditions in the political landscape.
What made this Umhlanga even more captivating was the gracious presence of Imbali from other kingdoms beyond the borders of Eswatini. This not only highlighted the universal appeal of the reed dance but also underlined its status as an incredibly attractive and inclusive event that transcends regional boundaries.
The convergence of political leaders, cultural enthusiasts, and Imbali from various regions made the Shiselweni Umhlanga a symbol of unity and cultural diversity.
This event not only celebrated Swazi heritage but also demonstrated the power of culture to unite and attract people from diverse backgrounds, fostering a sense of shared identity and respect for tradition.