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Umhlanga Reed Dance - Swaziland

A 35mm film image taken in 1981 and recently scanned in from a block mount that had been on my bar wall since the mid 80's. I doubt the enlarged version will do it any favours. The story behind this image is attached to the version in my Pre digitial era folder..... so kindly take a look. Thanks for your comments..... always appreciated. Regards


Grayham Allott , June 10, 2011; 05:41 A.M.

Umhlanga Reed Dance

Shot with my trusty Konica TC and Vivitar Series 1 70-210, back in 1981. This image was block mounted 10x12 and hung in my bar till 2000. Recently scanned in and Ps'd for scratches.

Annually the Umhlanga Reed Dance is held for the reigning monarch. The Dance is twofold - All Swazi maidens (between 12 and 20yrs) are summond to collect swamp bamboo and present themselves at the Kings Kraal ( his ancestoral home). The bamboo is used to rebuild the outer wall of the total Kings village or boma.

Secondly, the maidens (between 10 -15 thousand) sing and dance in tribal groups in front of the King, for him to choose a new wife. A new wife each year ensures his dynasty.

I was one of 5 foreign photographers allowed to film the process, under strict instructions of what we could and could'nt film. Each of us had our own armed guard.

An amazing lifetime experience. Sold some pictures and had a great time, and No, Coke Cola would not buy this image.


Mike Palermiti , June 10, 2011; 01:28 P.M.

Hi Grayham,

You did a fine job on this documentary.

The vivid colors along with your narrative makes me hear their chants and watch their dance in my mind.

Maybe I do need a drink, now.

Excellent work.

Best Regards,  Mike

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Grayham Allott , June 10, 2011; 08:53 P.M.

Thank you Mike............. this brings back many "adrenalin-rush" memories.

Africa is amazing.


Louise Crump , June 10, 2011; 09:30 P.M.

Hi Grayham

Great shot! I can hear the whistle blowing and foot stomping just by looking at this colourful image. Makes me want to revisit Africa!

Kind regards


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Grayham Allott , June 10, 2011; 09:40 P.M.

Hi Louise................

......... lovely to have you visit again. Yes the noise was bedlam yet vibrant and exhilarating........ an amazing time.

Thanks for stopping by.


Florin P , June 11, 2011; 12:23 A.M.

Great dramatic scene, very well captured.

Congrats !

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Grayham Allott , June 11, 2011; 01:02 A.M.

Thanks for your visit Florin.......... appreciate your time and interest.


Pierre Dumas , June 11, 2011; 01:58 A.M.

Wonderful special looking spectacle!

I must though remark that the camera was better to be shifted upwards!

Best regards Grayham!


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Steve Shinn , June 11, 2011; 06:38 P.M.

Thanks for sharing. The colors are vivid and the quality is pretty good especially considering that it was scanned from an aging print.

One wonders how all of this has changed in thirty years.  I am forced to ponder on  what other wonderful treasures are hanging over your bar....

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Grayham Allott , June 12, 2011; 05:44 P.M.

Thanks for your visit Pierre.


Alex Elias , June 17, 2011; 03:48 A.M.

Wow. That is one fantastic image.



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Grayham Allott , June 17, 2011; 05:51 A.M.

Hi Steve.............

......... I appreciate your visit and kind words.

To answer the first question....... King Sabuza died in 1982 (aged 82) and his nephew ascended to the throne....... a 19yo Oxford graduate who took little interest in the advice of the tribal elders. This particular ritual became one of his many ways to get women, and within a few short years had many many wives......... his immature actions have been curtailed (eventually) by his cabinet (govt) and the elders and Swaziland has returned to the pleasant little "back-water" it was, back in the day.

Regarding the treasures of my pub?........ I'll need to scout around for some of those, and so will leave you pondering............


Grayham Allott , June 18, 2011; 07:33 P.M.

Thanks Alex.......... I appreciate your visit.


Paul Casagrande , June 21, 2011; 01:20 A.M.

Importante è sperimentare,complimenti !

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Grayham Allott , June 21, 2011; 05:05 P.M.

Thank you Paul.


Bettie Coetzee , August 06, 2011; 07:15 A.M.

great document

Grayham, I envy you the privilege to be chosen as one of the official photographers of this exhibition of women to the lecherous eyes of those in power to choose them. The faces of these women reveal quite the opposite of the fun and joy of those performing in the Indigenous Orchestra-performance on the stage of a Western Opera theatre-stage, that I have photographed.

This image record very vividly the traditions of the Swazi.

Im glad you singled out the expression of the girls having fun, in my stage performed initiation dance. On stage it is an act, in real life a form of slavery.

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Grayham Allott , August 06, 2011; 09:22 P.M.

Hi Bettie.............
Thank you for your response to my posting of the Umhlanga Reed Dance. Your comment on the "fun" aspect between both pictures is well-noticed and whilst I don't approve of the reasons behind the Reed Dance, nor Initiation for that matter, this event was a very happy, joyful and exhuberant affair. We, of the Western World, tend to dislike many of the cultures of other societies, but it is their culture and their beliefs and I suppose we have to leave it at that.
You have some great images in your portfolio and I will visit and comment

Best regards

oktay han , March 02, 2012; 03:39 A.M.

after i saw this photo i felt i were there.its very natural and realist .on the other hand it has artistic value imo.in short i like to look many photos in your  profile.this is real africa!thanks for showing.

best regards


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Grayham Allott , March 02, 2012; 05:54 A.M.

Hi Oktay..............

Thank you so much for your visit. Yes, this is Africa at its best. The old traditions linger on and hopefully do not get overpowered by western civilization.

Thanks for your comment...... it is appreciated.


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