An African Wedding: Part 1

There’s something about growing up in Africa that seeps into the spirit and keeps one yearning for more. It’s something to do with the intensity of the experiences that one can have in this place, like the one I had recently when I attended the traditional wedding of my friend Themba Mchunu, a Zulu man from KwaZulu Natal, and his sweetheart Keke Tsebe, who was born and raised in Botswana. The moment I received the invitation, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be going to Botswana to celebrate their happy day with them.

I flew into Gabarone on the eve of the wedding, filled with anticipation and curiosity of what lay ahead. I was met by my friend Petra, who was en route from Namibia to her home in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. She too had been included in the invitation. As my plane had been delayed a couple of hours, the sun was beginning to set as we left the busy streets and crowded shopping malls of Gabarone and headed towards Lobatse, following Keke’s cousin, Kayce, who had offered to show us the way.

One thing I had forgotten from my years of living in Botswana in the 1970’s is the hazard of domestic animals on the road. There are very few fences, and donkeys, goats and cattle graze the verdant verges oblivious of the traffic zooming by. With darkness descending and only the vaguest outlines visible of the trees and rocky kopjies in the veldt beyond, we slowly followed the red hazard lights of the cars ahead of us, straining our eyes in the lookout for donkeys sleeping in the road. After travelling for an hour or so, we reached the Digawane village, and pulled into the homestead of Keke’s mother, Janet Tsebe, where we were warmly greeted and invited to join the elders and relatives who were seated in the garden. After being fed a delicious meal, we sat outside in the balmy air, under an inky star studded sky, chatting to the family. Towards midnight, we were taken to our lodgings for the night and by the time we had settled in, I was exhausted and more than ready to sleep.

It seemed,however, that no sooner had I closed my eyes, my alarm was beeping me awake. It was 4.30am and we had to get up and get dressed for the Lobola ceremony, to which we had been invited. I felt enormously honoured to have been included in what is normally a family affair, and even more touched when Petra and I were invited to join Themba’s family delegation of women, and take part in the proceedings. This act of inclusion set the scene for the day. We were drawn into the bosom of the family, enveloped in love and acceptance from the moment the day began. Soon after we arrived, we women seated ourselves on mats outside the house, separate from the men who were having their own lobola discussions at the other side of the garden. The women of Keke’s family sat to one side, and welcomed the women of Themba’s family, who sat opposite them.

The women's lobola meeting opened with prayer

The women’s lobola meeting opened with prayer

Themba's mother, Khanyi, listens as Rachel translates Keke's family greeting into Zulu

Themba’s mother, Khanyi, listens as Rachel translates Keke’s family greeting into Zulu

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Mama Khanye (Themba’s mum) and Rachel, who is a friend of Janet, Keke’s mum

The arrival of gifts from Themba's family

The arrival of gifts from Themba’s family

Waiting for the arrival of the gifts, Themba's relatives and I relax

Waiting for the arrival of the gifts, Themba’s relatives and I relax

Mama Khanyi offers her gifts to Keke's family

Mama Khanyi offers her gifts to Keke’s family

Keke's aunts place the gifts before her mother, seated extreme right

Keke’s aunts place the gifts before her mother, seated extreme right

...and the gifts are accepted

…and the gifts are accepted

Keke's mum, Janet, graciously receives the gifts

Keke’s mum, Janet, graciously receives the gifts

meanwhile, the men were deep in discussion

Meanwhile, the men were deep in discussion…

Keke, the bride, makes an appearance and greets her future mother-in-law, Khanyi

Keke, the bride, makes her first appearance and greets her new family

Khanyi, Keke and Mamalome Phenyo Mekgwe

Khanyi, Keke and Mamalome Phenyo Mekgwe

Keke gives her new sister-in-law, Sthembile, a hug

Keke gives her new sister-in-law, Sthembile, a hug

Songs of praise

Songs of praise

Keke's family performs a celebratory dance

Keke’s family performs a celebratory dance

Themba makes his first appearance and greets his mother, Khanyi

Themba makes his first appearance and greets his mother, Khanyi

Keke and Themba share a moment together

Keke and Themba share a tender moment together

Keke's malume (uncle) Emmanuel Mekgwe and his wife, Ma Malume were both key figures in the lobola negotiations

Keke’s malume (uncle) Emmanuel Mekgwe and his wife, Mme Phenyo Mekgwe

Malume receives a gift of a new coat

Emmanuel receives a gift of a new coat

At this point, we had breakfast and the room filled with joyous song and dance.

Khanyi and Petra

Khanyi and Petra

Without us noticing, Themba had slipped away, only to reappear with his supporting men…

Themba, the Zulu, and his men announce their arrival in song and dance

Themba, the Zulu, and his men announce their arrival in song and dance

Themba works up the crowd!

Themba works up the crowd!

His mum joins in...

His mum joins in…

As does his sister, Sthembile

As does his sister, Sthembile

Entering the homestead gates

Entering the homestead gates

Themba announces his arrival!

Themba announces his arrival!

Themba and his family

Themba and his family

It had been an exciting morning. The scene had been set, the lobola paid and we all dispersed to prepare ourselves for the second part of the wedding….

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Categories: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “An African Wedding: Part 1

  1. Wow! How lovely, can’t wait to read more.

  2. What a tremendous montage of photos, Sal! It must have been a superb experience.

    • It was so special, Harry. Completely unpretentious, warm happy and loving. As close to an authentic African experience as one can get. I loved it!

  3. Patrick Stidolph

    Sal, what a wonderful way to share your Botswana visit with us. Your words and your photos convey the experience so well. Thank you so much

  4. Pippa Rees

    Thanks Sally for sharing your wonderful experience. It was really interesting and your visual documentary was equally as special.

  5. Janet Nthama Tsebe Mother of the bride

    Sally: it is my first time look and read about the proceedings of Keke!s weeding. I love it its so wounderful

    • Hello Janet! I am so thrilled that you have found your way to my site and have been able to see all the great photos which I am sure will bring back happy memories. It certainly was a wedding to remember! Thank you for everything.

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