African Wedding – South Nguni Wedding – Xhosa Wedding

African Wedding – South Nguni Wedding – Xhosa Wedding.

To fully describe the wedding would take very many pages. However, the points  of the ceremony are captured in colour slides.

You will not see a bridegroom as he has chose his bride long ago, paid her father twelve head of cattle as Labola (dowry), which he borrowed from his own father. He is probably at the Gold mines in Johannesburg working to earn money so that upon his return he can pay the debt to this father in respect of the cattle which he borrowed. After this, he will leave with his wife to start his own home.

His bride and her retinue have come from 20 miles away to the bridegroom’s father’s home, where a hut has been prepared for them. It is here that the strange wedding takes place. Upon it’s completion the retinue return to their own homes, while the new bride remains and works here awaiting the return of her husband.

99. 

Bride and maids inside hut painting up. Bodies smeared with red ochre paste and ears painted white.

100. f

Painting complete, they are adorned in their beadwork, taking great pains just as a white bride does on her great day.

101. 

Standing. Only the bride has an ankle length skirt, but shortly…..

102. 

We find maids as well as bride in long skirts. Reason – when emerging later, the huge crowd outside cannot tell bride from maid. This custom ensures indemnity until the last possible moment.

103. 

A close-up of the bride.

104. 

Bride and maids seated in line having heads covered with black turbans.

105. 

Blankets are drawn up enclosing black turban – result – a black turbaned head surrounded by red blanket. When they emerge from hut it is IMPOSSIBLE to tell bride from maids.

106. 

Emerging, the leading woman tosses sweets into the air (see in left-hand corner) for the children.

107. 

Walking in single file, group follows leader who leads them to in front of where the men are sitting.

108. 

Here a woman spreads out a sleeping mat upon which bride and maids sit shoulder to shoulder, facing men. The retinue now forms a circle around the kneeling lot, stretching their blankets wide open from end to end. The men watching therefore see only the circle of closed blankets. Occupants not visible.

109. 

Inside above circle, one of retinue begins to remove black turbans and drop shoulder blankets.

110. 

At a given sign, the retinue who have kept the above procedure enclosed, suddenly swing blankets open for a brief period, enabling bridegrooms father and the men, to gaze for the first time upon the bride and her maids.

111. 

A close-up of bride and maids, after which the circle is closed once again, while bride and maids turn themselves around, back towards men, then same procedure as in 109 takes place. Upon completion of 109 and 110, turbans and blankets are replaced. They stand up and proceed in single file to where the chattering, inquisitive women excitedly await exactly the same performance as n 107 to 109.

112. 

The bride and maids returning to the hut after their most exciting experience.

113. 

We find them inside having a meal after the performance, as they await the slaughter of a beast.

114. 

Upon completion of slaughter, bride receives meat first, which she roasts. See fire ready for lighting on floor. As soon as meat enters her mouth, the rest of the tribe begins to feast and drink, taking sometimes three or four days, after which all is quiet and normality once again settles over the home. The bride remains with parents-in-law until her husband’s return.

115. 

Next day all the young unmarried girls who were friends of the bride in the area she lived before her marriage, have risen very early and dress for what is termed “The Duli”, the giving away of their friend for the area in which she lived to the new area. Distance in this particular case was 20 miles. They all assemble, beautifully dressed, then set off together. Eventually we them arriving in a long single file at the bride’s new home.

116. 

Outside the brides hut they form a semi-circle, singing and chanting the so-called handing over of their friend to the new area. While doing so, beautifully dressed married women come dancing into the semi-circle, chanting and thanking them for the wonderful bride who was once a playmate of theirs.

117. 

A close-up front view showing how young girls dress on this occasion.

118. 

A rear view. Noted the long bands of beads which fit around the head hanging down the spine.

119. 

A view of the married women described in 115, with two of the unmarried dancers.

120. 

Two tiny tots who attended.

121. 

The dancing described in 115 carries on until approximately 3.00 p.m. By this time the performers are very hungry, and it is customary to form a semi-circle, as seen, around the bride’s hut and chant for food. This is readily given, and after they have eaten, the girls again for a semi-circle chanting their farewell song to their friend, after which they will leave on their long journey home, probably arriving after dark.

122. 

A picture of bride and groom taken nine months later after his return from the mines. Shortly afterwards the couple left here and started their own home.

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