Since 2012 I work together with my friend and tracker Bheki Ngubane. Today I visited his community to take pictures of many of his family members. This is a picture of the man I wanted to meet for a long time. He is Bheki’s father, 93 years old, the proud husband of eight wives and father of 65 children. More about him and his community will follow soon …
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As most of you know I live in the heart of Zululand, a region reigned by the hereditary King of the Zulu people.
Most Zulus today are members of Christian churches, but they are also still firmly rooted in traditions involving the spirits of their ancestors. As a result many Zulus will have two wedding ceremonies in one day, when they want to tie the knot for life. I was invited by one of my Zulu colleagues to capture his wedding. This is the resulting picture report.
The day started with the Christian wedding ceremony in the garden of a local hotel with everyone in modern dress. It was followed by a reception in the community hall. The traditional wedding ceremony commenced in the early afternoon at the groom’s homestead.
The process – from the arrival of the bride’s family in the early morning hours, their traditional ‘camping’ under a tree in the vicinity, the slaughter of a few cows to feed the large wedding party, the preparation of the groom’s family including a visit to the ancestral hut on the property, the approach of the bridal party to the groom’s homestead, the dancing and singing, the interview of the bride by the wedding official and the delivery of the wedding gifts to the grooms’ family – was following a strict protocol with the main aim to please the ancestors.
As normal in Zulu tradition love and emotion between women and men are not displayed publicly, so a handshake between Nothando – the bride – and Muzikayise – the groom – was the equivalent of the wedding kiss after the couple was officially married.
I learned a lot more about the Zulus and their traditions that day, but the main lesson was that they love to sing and dance, to have fun and to please their ancestors!
Enjoy the pictures!
United in dance!
The Two Weddings – Nothando and Muzikayise
Bridesmaids, Flower Girl, Ring Boy, Groomsmen and a Christian Minister – a wedding standard 🙂
With song and rhythm
The groom’s sister in a colorful dress
Reception in the community hall – a hot summer affair 🙂
The bride’s family’s camp in front of the groom’s homestead
The male members of the groom’s family in traditional attire (except for the shoes :-))
The groom and his family inviting the bride’s family into the homestead by dancing around the grounds
The groom’s uncle – the old father in Zulu – was treated with a lot of respect
The groom emerges from the ancestors’ hut
The bride arrives – with her ‘wedding planner and mistress of ceremony’
The locked trunk – with all the brides possessions – is delivered to the groom’s homestead
The wedding official (sent by the community’s chief) interviews the bride
Song and dance – a young girl
Song and dance – the groom’s brother
Song and dance – an unmarried lady
Me at work 🙂
The handshake – equivalent to the wedding kiss – the bride bowing low during the whole ceremony as a sign of respect to the groom’s family
The happy couple in a modern posture
As many other peoples – who have existed for a long time – the Zulu people have a lot of customs and traditions.
I am now living for over three years in Zululand and I have tried to learn about the Zulus as much as possible. Even if I have not improved my Zulu language skills by much (isiZulu is quite difficult to learn and I am a bit on the lazy side when it comes to learning languages) I was able to observe quite a lot. Bheki Ngubane, my Zulu tracker and friend, has taught me much about his people and I was invited on some special days to the local communities.
This is a picture of Bheki (on the right) having a friendly ‘demonstration’ fight with his brother Mbongeni. When the Zulus have an occasion to celebrate – for example at a wedding – the men like to test their strength in such fights. A specially appointed Induna yenzinsizwa (fight leader) makes sure that these confrontations do not get out of hand. In this picture both brothers wear traditional men’s cloths, made from animal skins, mainly from cows and goats. And do not worry; the leopard skins around their necks are artificially made. Nowadays such traditional attire is mostly worn on special occasions and also when going to church services (similar to ‘Kilts in Scotland’ and ‘Lederhosen in Bavaria’).
Behki is a typical example of a Zulu man, living in a rural area. He wears modern cloth, works on Thanda as a tracker, drives a small car, uses cell phone technology to communicate with his family and friends – mostly by texting – and enjoys watching TV at his room at base camp.
But he is also the husband to two wives, has nine children and lives with his family on a large plot of land on Lake St.Lucia. At his home he has no access to electricity or to running water. His first wife and some her older children spend part of their days collecting water for a central point in the community and collecting firewood from the forest. Bheki comes from a very traditional background. His father had eight wives, 40 daughters and 25 sons. As a married man – with more than one wife – Bheki is a much respected man in his local community. It helps that the local Induna yesizwe (equivalent to a major) is his uncle and the Inkhosi (equivalent to a chief or governor) of his community is his nephew :-).
Quite a few of my blog followers have expressed interest in these subjects, so over the next couple month I will write a few more blogs about Zulu customs and traditions, and always with pictures 🙂
Please let me know if you have any questions or interest in specific topics and I will try to cover them. Siyabonga (Thank you in isiZulu).