It’s been seven months since the outbreak of Coronavirus in South Africa, instead of focusing on the negative impact, South Africans are taking part in positive initiatives in an effort to uplift each other. Young maidens from various areas in Gauteng gathered in Jeppestown, Johannesburg this past Saturday to celebrate their heritage through song, dance and poetry.
The girls, who normally attend the annual Umkhosi woMhlanga every September in Enyokeni, KwaNongoma, in KwaZulu-Natal, had their own celebration since the event could not take place this year due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Dressed in colourful traditional attire and beaded necklaces, they braved the scorching heat as they chanted songs in celebration of their culture.
The girls delivered a highly energetic song and dance entertainment while observing Covid-19 regulations at a local park. According to the maidens’ mentor and founder of Izimbali Zesizwe Cultural organisation, Sylvia Manqele, they decided to have a mini celebration since they could not go to Nongoma.
“We asked for permission from Endlunkulu (Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini) to have this kind of celebration. They (girls) are doing everything they normally do when they attend Umhlanga,” said Manqele.
Manqele, who works with Sibongile Malinga and Ntombenhle Mazibuko in mentoring the girls, has been running the organisation for 11 years. She was motivated to start it after her own kids became interested in virginity testing. The women do not only test the girls but also equip them with important craft skills such as creating beaded necklaces and bracelets.
“We normally start testing them at age of 2 while the oldest girl in my organisation is 19 years old. We teach them the importance of culture, respect and to also respect older people. The kids love to go to Emhlangeni (the annual reed dance) because they get blessings and get to be addressed by King Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu. Most importantly, we encourage them to take education seriously,” added Manqele.
19 year old, Zandile Ngobese, who originally comes from Nquthu in KwaZulu-Natal, said she joined Izimbali Zesizwe at a younger age because she was passionate about traditional dance and singing.“I love being here because I’m proud of being a maiden and I love the concept of virginity testing. Working with Mama Manqele has taught me a lot. I love going there (to Emhlangeni) because we meet other maidens from different areas and listen to the King addressing us,” she said.