How Much Milk Does A 3 Day Old Per Session I’m Done With Weddings, and Weddings Are Done

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I’m Done With Weddings, and Weddings Are Done

I won’t be remarrying my English wife any time soon. Yes, folks, the whirlwind wedding ceremony wagon (four already broken down) came to a screeching halt over Easter weekend. Readers of this column will remember that in the article entitled “Four marriages to count”, I wrote thus: “Nevertheless, I owe to my parents and to my native village two marriage ceremonies – the traditional marriage and the white marriage .”

No stupid, I didn’t have the other two outstanding wedding ceremonies over the weekend – all at the same time, but something of Shakespearean proportions (except it wasn’t a tragedy) happened while I was visiting my family in Zululand. Let’s say that for now, my family is no longer looking forward to the two exceptional wedding ceremonies. Do not be ahead of yourself and declare that perhaps reason has prevailed. I learned to be very careful with my parents.

This is how the story unfolded. We spent the recent Easter weekend with my parents in Ulundi in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal province. The town of Ulundi, in the heart of Zululand, is surrounded by majestic hills and the steep valleys of the White Umfolozi River. Former capital of the Zulu Kingdom, Ulundi straddles Route 66, between Nongoma and Melmoth. We arrived Friday afternoon. Our trip to Ulundi was just a courtesy visit to see my family. In tow I had my English wife, a mixed-race daughter, and a son born to a Xhosa-speaking mother. My village is now used to seeing a white woman between them so this is no longer an event worth commenting on.

However, as a well-behaved Zulu boy, I had sent money to my mother so she could buy the ingredients needed to make the traditional IsiZulu beer known as Umqombothi. It was a small gesture on my part towards the ancestors to acknowledge their presence in my life. So what better than to give them something to drink and have fun. There was no customary slaughter of an animal or a goat for that matter. This visit had to be as routine as possible. It turned out to be anything but.

Firstly, on Saturday, my wife walked into the Mncube kitchen for the very first time with the sole intention of playing makoti (bride) and so that meant cooking for the in-laws. It took him 16 long years. I had decided a week before our visit that now was the time and the place for my wife to break with tradition once and for all. You see in my family tradition, unless the bride has been officially introduced to the ancestors by the slaughter of a beast, she cannot perform makoti duties, including cooking. Despite the spirit of defiance on my part, there was another snag. There were a total of 16 mouths to feed.

Nevertheless, my wife took on the task of cooking like a duck to water. After an epic six-hour cooking session with a faulty electric stove, the food was delivered to everyone. I patted her on the back for a job well done. My parents stayed mum on breaking tradition. For the past 16 years my wife has been treated like a visitor to be served meals at specific times. On Sunday, the cooking session had to be repeated. Of course, it was now commonplace for my wife.

But something monumental was brewing. As I sat outside one of the huts and passed the time sharing jokes with my mother, other family members and hangers. Suddenly, my father joined us. He looked worried. I swear I saw the sweat running down his neck. Immediately, he demanded that all my family members be called to where we were sitting to join us. I gave them a reprieve to tell them that my wife and daughter were busy cooking. My mother also contributed to say that it was not necessary. My father would have none of that. He shouted at my mother. Everyone had to come because they wanted to do something very important. Feeling that I was not going to win the battle let alone the war, I ordered a random child to go and summon my wife and daughter. My son was already seated with us. They immediately went down to the square. I did not make eye contact with my wife fearing she would ask me what was going on. I was no wiser.

My father, in his irritable way, didn’t gossip or exchange jokes. He got to work. He announced in a neutral tone that he was already late for his assigned task to speak to Amadlozi on my side of the family. In Zulu, Amadlozi means ancestors. We refer to Idlozi (singular) – Amadlozi (plural): it means a human spirit or soul of the deceased. Since he doesn’t want to, he moved away from us a few meters to be near Isibaya (kraal) and started like a burning house Ukuthetha idlozi. Ukuthetha idlozi literally means “to rebuke”. Zulu historians argue that the Ukuthetha idlozi linguistically gives the initial impression of some sort of aggressive relationship between ancestors and their descendants. In practice, this is not so. The literal English translation is misleading. Ukuthetha idlozi is a phrase that implies something different from reprimand – it is about praying them (not to be confused with religious prayer), it is like a senior lawyer’s prayer before a judge. In its traditional sense Ukuthetha idlozi rather refers to communication between ancestors and their descendants. Basically, you tell them what they need to know and possibly make special requests. We treat the dead like the living except that we place a higher value on our relationship with them. We are Zulus, that’s how we roll.

After a beautiful rendition of Izithakazelo signifying the praises attached to a particular descent group (in this case, the Mncubes) in which the ancestors of the clan are also mentioned, my father proudly reported thus: “I bring to you MaZilakatha (the name of Praise of Mncube), the son of MaMlambo (my mother’s maiden name) is now married. He has two children. I ask you to keep and protect his new family. We pray for their good health, wealth and their peace. My apologies for telling you now. It happened a while ago.”

My father should have practiced this Ukuthetha idlozi ritual in 2008, when I got married. Nevertheless, the eagerness with which he took on the task, albeit nine years later, made me laugh. It even spread with the tradition of burning Impepho which is a species of immortelle with a sweet smell (Doke et al 1990: 658). Impepho is used to burn as an offering to the spirits of the deceased. It opens communication with the ancestors and makes any request, report or sacrifice acceptable. It is normally a precursor to Ukuthetha idlozi. I cared less. I was happy to hear my father say the words “uBhekisisa is now married”.

So, dear reader, it has happened that the proverbial English wife, Professor D., is now officially united with my Zulu ancestors. By all accounts, the message to the ancestors has been accepted. In simple words, it means my wife was accepted as a wife (Makoti) by the Mncube clan after the official report in Amadlozi. This is despite the fact that there was no sacrificial slaughter of a beast and subsequent traditional marriage. As you know dear readers: My wife refuses to have anything to do with a wedding ceremony where the slaughter of poor cows and goats happens willy-nilly. As my father relented and introduced my wife to the Amadlozi, so that means she is officially considered a daughter of the Mncube clan. She can now milk the cows, cook and basically be sent shopping by my family as a duly married wife. Unfortunately, in reality, this means that there is no prospect for other wedding ceremonies.

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