Young Women in Contemporary Zulu Society

by Sandra Klopper
University of Cape Town

Young Zulu women wearing short cotton skirts decorated with beaded garments during the Reed Ceremony. Photo by Sandra Klopper.

By celebrating similar values in the speeches he delivers at the Zulu Reed Ceremony, King Goodwill Zwelethini has succeeded in turning this event into an important vehicle for the control of female sexuality. In effect, therefore, the Reed ceremony serves to protect the rights of of fathers hoping to claim substantial bride wealth (lobola) for their virgin daughters. In this regard it differs significantly from celebrations for the Heavenly Princess, which are conducted in secrecy by young virgins themselves in the belief that the Princess will protect them against negative forces and will also help them to find husbands.