The women range in age from perhaps as young a 6 (although some of the princesses are even younger), up to middle 30s. The original idea of the reed dance was that this was a ritual in which virgins brought the king reeds, which in Nguni culture generally, are symbols of fertility and the origin myths that tell of the original human being emerging out of the reeds (umhlanga, 'a reed', but also the 'original stem or tribe').
The princesses got a great deal of attention, of course. They are the ones with the red feathers in their hair. Only members of the royal family are allowed to wear them. The royal family is very large, all of the king's many brothers and sisters, children of Sobhuza, and their children, of the lineage Dlamini wekunene, or 'great Dlaminis'.