Monday, 18 April 2016

Mandla's lobola

Mandla and Gugu

As is traditional in Swaziland, Mandla Mdluli has paid cows to the family of his fiancée, Gugu Magagula. This took place over the course of the weekend of 15-17 April.

From Friday evening Mandla’s relatives and friends began to arrive at the Magagula homestead,outside Matsapha. The visiting men slept in a specially erected tent, and the women stayed indoors. 

Inspecting the cattle

On Saturday morning the negotiations about the number of cows required were finalised (the number was already agreed). We arrived in time for the end of the negotiations, and were shown into a room where many people were seated on the floor. Mandla was there, wrapped in a heavy blanket. The blankets had been given as gifts to the senior members of the Mdluli family, and Mandla was required to wear the blanket for the whole weekend. It was very hot (30º?) in the crowded room and as all the conversation was in siSwati we were rather lost. Eventually there was some long praying and we were told that all was arranged. We all got into cars and went to view the cattle, which were on a nearby, but more rural, homestead, belonging to Gugu’s grandmother. The cows were inspected and deemed to be suitable, so it was back into the cars and back to the homestead. 

Cow waiting at the homestead

Almost immediately, two cows were slaughtered on the homestead; one provided by the Mdluli family and one by the Magagula family. The cows were tied to a tree and killed, skinned, cleaned and cut into pieces. Everyone watched and commented, with instructions coming from all sides. Small children were quite happily watching or playing nearby. It felt a long way from home to be sitting in the bright sunshine beside basins of entrails and clouds of flies, in the smoke of the cooking fires, making small talk with Mandla’s aunt - the senior member of the family. (Many unprintable pictures were taken.) Once the beasts had been removed it was acceptable for us to leave.

Church service at the Magagula homestead

On Sunday morning, after the 8am service in All Saints, Mbabane, we returned to the Magagula homestead. We were surprised to find a marquee erected, and a church service as the first item of business. The temperature in the marquee was high - and Mandla still wrapped in his blanket. Interspersed with wonderful singing, Auntie Mdluli did some robust praying, and Fr Wandile preached a lively sermon of great passion, in siSwati naturally, about promises. Mandla and Gugu came forward and were prayed over by Fr Mthet. 

Mandla in his blanket

The two families went to different parts of the homestead to eat. Yesterday’s cows topped the menu, with salad, beetroot and pumpkin, followed by apples. Lots of hard work went into preparing the food, which was cooked outdoors over open fires.

Hot work cooking for everyone

The celebrations finished with traditional dancing and speeches - which, since they were in siSwati, we were happy to miss.

The main organiser for Mandla’s side was our good friend Hamilton Curtis, and it was good to meet many friends there, including Hamilton’s wife and daughter, Fr Malo, Diocesan Secretary, and Bishop Ellinah’s son, daughter-in-law and grandson, who had come from South Africa to support Mandla. 

All in all it was a great weekend. While it was strange to us in terms of culture, it was also much more “churchy” than events involving young adults in Ireland. It was a real privilege to have been included, and we were the objects of some benign curiosity. Swazi people are warm and welcoming, and we were well looked after, with people making sure we had chairs, could see, had food etc. 

Mandla looked hot and tired, but must have pleased at the success of the occasion - and very glad to finally take off the blanket.

Getting ready for the dancing