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Sunday, 31 August 2008


I wrote on Friday (29 August 2008) that Swaziland’s King Mswati III was thought to have an image problem in the United States because he encouraged 40,000 bare breasted maidens to dance before him at the annual Reed Dance ceremony.

The Americans thought that there was an obvious ‘sexual undertone’ to the dance.

With the Reed Dance once more upon us there is bound to be some international media coverage of the event (there always is) and you can bet your house that most of the media reports will be about those breasts.

I was reminded of this ‘image problem’ last week by an article the Sunday Monitor, Uganda (24 August 2008). It was a piece designed to encourage people to visit Swaziland for its ‘culture’. The writer, Moses Serugo, however, had a bit of a one track mind.

Here are the opening paragraphs. The article called Swaziland: Mountains, mountains and more mountains (make of that what you will) goes on to give an interesting insight into Swaziland’s history since independence in 1968. To read the full article, click here.

To the lecherous mind, Swaziland is nothing more than a parade of bare-breasted maidens. The culturally inclined will become wide-eyed on hearing that the reed dance goes beyond providing King Mswati with yet another chance to increase his harem. The curator at the National Museum will tell you it is a cultural celebration like that of any other community in the world.

The reed dance usually takes place at the end of August but the museum is awash with images that include black and white ones, dating as far back as the early 20th Century to latter day colour pictures showing topless nubile girls that have no qualms about showing their sharp breasts.

These are mostly a male distraction and the temptation to pick up a calendar on which Swazi princesses form part of the photography is high. The princesses have a distinguishing feature on their head gear - red feathers forming a semi-circular scalp adornment that is supposed to make them stand out from ordinary mortals.

The royal daughters are a ravishing lot, which says something about King Mswati’s choice. Hushed voices will however whisper to you that there have been two runaway queens who were not content with the restrictions that come with living in the royal palace - even with the regal trappings that include a plush abode and a sleek BMW vehicle.

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