This year the annual Umhlanga (or Reed Dance) in Swaziland takes place on 1 September. Over 20,000 unmarried and childless girls and teenagers from all over the country gather reeds and present them at the Lobamba royal residence near the capital Mbabane in homage to Ntombi, the Queen Mother or Indovukazi, literally meaning great she-elephant). The day begins with washing and grooming; the participants then dress in short beaded skirts with anklets, bracelets and jewellery and colourful sashes and are led by the royal princesses to perform before the king and queen mother. The dance begins at around 14.00. Photographs can be taken with a permit.
Umhlanga is a public holiday in Swaziland and marks one of the most important ceremonies in Swazi culture.
Ntombi is mother of King Mswati III, the administrative head of state, who has been on the throne since 1986. In Swazi culture the Queen Mother is considered the spiritual head of state.