We’ve all seen the photos and heard the story. 30,000 virgins dance for the King of Swaziland in a ritual stretching back decades.
It creates the impression that the country is a haven of bare-breasted beauties, despite there being evidence that, culturally, Swaziland is a nation in which a modest form of public dress is encouraged, to the point where there has been an effort to ban miniskirts.
Part of the argument appears to run that in a country where there is an HIV epidemic, something has to be done to discourage rape and, thus, the spread of the disease. I can’t say I’m fully conversant with the facts, the background, or the attitudes of men in the country to rape, so it would be remiss of me to pass judgement.
What I will say is that in the likes of Lobambo, the capital, women are much more likely to be wearing ‘western’ style clothes, whether ‘immodest’ or not, and in the rural areas, where traditional dress prevails to some extent, that traditional dress leans more in the direction of modesty.
The ‘bare breasted beauty’ is, therefore, somewhat of a myth, the Reed Dance apart.
In that context, it would appear that being topless isn’t a fixture of the culture, and that it only becomes a matter of public acceptance in the context of the Reed Dance, a ritual in which young girls dance for the king.
Look at the photos carefully and you’ll find a mixture of traditional/tribal hairstyles and modern western ones, alongside mobile phones (cellphones) and modern sunglasses. And into this mix comes the ready acceptance -if only for the duration of the dance itself- a quiet acceptance that toplessness is acceptable.
Interestingly, the image above, of white girls in a sort of tribal attire, shows them covering up. I’m not sure whether this indicates different attitudes apply, or if this is actually from the Swaziland reed dance, or some replication of it.
Our ‘profile star’ in this issue, Mtendere, did a photoshoot in a more westernised style on the profile page, but we also managed to get her to pose in Massai costume (it was available from Peace & LOL, which no longer seems to exist). A male version is also pictured, featuring one of Mtendere’s friends.
Mtendere says ‘these outfits are from a time when there was much more cultural diversity available in SL, and when it was possible to live life as an African, in African sims. I mourn the loss of such locations.’
It looks as though a ready acceptance of toplessness -or full nudity- outside the context of naturism, has taken a backwards step in SL, and it doesn’t look like anytime soon that we could see Swaziland’s Reed Dance, or an approximation of it, take place in SL.
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