Young Women in Contemporary Zulu Society

by Sandra Klopper
University of Cape Town

A Zulu girl preparing for the Reed Ceremony, South Africa. Photo by Sandra Klopper.

To say that the Reed Ceremony serves to protect the rights of men is certainly not to suggest that young girls themselves find this ceremony (as opposed to celebrations of the Heavenly Princess) either patronising or demeaning. On the contrary, both they and their mothers regard the Reed Ceremony as an important indication of the acknowledgement of female value, in particular the future role of young women as bearers and caretakers of the Zulu nation. As such, the ceremony has played a significant role, at least until the mid-1990s, in upholding and maintaining a consciously exclusive notion of Zulu ethnicity.