Saturday, September 16, 2006

Zulu Marriage

I became familiar with the word ‘zulu’ through Lans Klusener but hadn’t developed much interest in my first to South Africa. This time, met a zulu person and hopefully soon would get a chance to visit Kwazulu Natal to get glimpse of Zulu tribe. posted interesting facets about Zulu history, traditions and culture. One of the fascinating aspects of Zulu tradition is marriage.

Among the Zulu, marriage is an important aspect of life. Courtship through to marriage is a subtle and complex process. The girl makes the crucial first move, by sending an adornment of colored beads through a trusted friend. Through her color choice of beads, she sends across powerful love messages to the favored young man.

In Zululand, color is symbolic and can be used as a language. Therefore, every colored bead speaks a particular message: red means love or passion, white -faithfulness and purity, blue - thoughts of love, loyalty or loneliness, yellow -jealousy, and black expresses the wish for marriage or may sometimes convey anger. In courtship, if a reply is required, the girl includes some grey-blue beads.

On receiving the beads, the boy seeks the correct interpretation of the message. If he accepts her ornament of love, then courtship begins. They continue to exchange hot messages coded in beads, until they are ready to marry. Though this is a very exciting time for the lovebirds, it is out of question that they may engage in sexual relations before marriage. Zulu customs are very clear about this, and the girl must be married a virgin.

On the boy's request his family approaches the girl's family to ask for her hand in marriage, and the process of bride-price negotiations, - lobola, begins. This marks the official engagement. During lobola negotiations, the two families set and agree on gifts to be offered to the girls' father in terms of head of cattle. The bride price is paid in installments, and continues after the wedding, until the whole amount is paid up.

The proper meaning of bride price here is the compensation a father is offered for the loss of a daughter. For once she leaves her father's home, she becomes a member of her husband's family. A man may marry as many wives as he may afford, but a woman belongs to one man only.

At a set date before the wedding day, the bride and bridesmaids depart for the groom's home with all the bride's belongings. On arrival, the bride first presents her future father-in-law with gifts from her father. Accepting the gifts signifies acceptance into her new family. Early the next morning, the bride and her girls take to the river where they bathe naked as a sign of cleansing and purification. The bride thereafter goes through a string of rites and rituals before she is declared ready to be wed.

The preliminaries include a virginity test conducted by elderly women with experience in such matters. The results of the virginity test are eagerly awaited. Before the verdict, there is tension between the two families; they line facing each other as they haul across teasing insults. This may drag on for as long as two or three days. When the girl is declared fit to be a Zulu wife, there is jubilation on all sides. Celebrations begin with the downing of two head of cattle, and the two families exchange meat as a sign of unity.

The official wedding is conducted at night, usually when the moon is full or bright, in order to avert ill fate. The bride's parents do not attend the wedding so as to keep sad emotions from the joyous occasion. The wedding celebrations and feasting may last another two days, and will only end after the bride picks up her sleeping mats and heads for her husband's house.

Among the Zulu, different types of dressing define a person's status in society. A young unmarried girl wears heavily beaded, short hip-length skirts and is adorned in bead necklaces and walks around bare-chested. When she gets married she wears a black pleated leather skirt, decorated with beadwork. The men usually wear two stringed pieces of cowhide -one to cover his front essentials and the other, his rumps. Little children strut around in their birthday suits, punctuated by a few bead strands around the waist.


Blogger killian said...

Is there a Zulu symbol for marraige ? Does anybody know

6:30 AM  

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