Swati Lobola Ceremony
About Swati Lobola Ceremony
The Swati Lobola Ceremony is a three day colorful and vibrant affair characterized by song, dance and feasting. It is the culmination of a previous process in which the groom’s family visits the bride’s family to initiate discussions that conclude in an agreement on the number of cows that the groom’s family should give to the bride’s family as a token of appreciation for having the bride join their new family. Lobola is given by the groom’s family also as a sign of commitment to creating and maintaining a healthy relationship between the two marrying families. The lobola ceremony is held at the bride’s home from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon.
On Friday the groom and his entourage, typically his siblings, extended family members and close friends, arrive at the home of the bride in the evening or night, sometimes even past midnight. The groom (uMyeni) and his entourage are collectively referred to as Bayeni (grooms). Upon arrival, the groom’s chief Lobola negotiator and chief messenger known as Gozolo, announces their arrival by shouting “Siyalobola Gogo” (We are here to give the bride’s family cows). Swati people say Gogo to refer to ancestors. When shouting “Siyalobola Gogo”, Swati people are alerting the ancestors of both the bride and groom’s families of their presence and of the three day ceremony that aims to foster a strong relationship of kinship between the two families. After this announcement, Gozolo goes ahead to announce the number of cattle and describes (physical appearance) each of the cattle they have brought to the bride’s home. He also makes specific mention of two cows; Lugege and Insulamnyembeti. A Swati lobola ceremony cannot proceed without these two cows. Lugege is a gift to the women of the bride’s family and is feasted upon at the ceremony. Insulamnyembeti is a gift for only the bride’s mother. She can keep this cow for as long as she wants.
When Gozolo is done with this part of the ceremony, the bride’s family, who have been expecting the Bayeni, then proceeds to acknowledge their presence and gives them permission to enter the bride’s home. When this is done, both the groom and Gozolo are presented with blankets that will differentiate them from the rest of the entourage. They will use these blankets to cover themselves throughout the lobola weekend. Swati people consider the covering of the groom’s shoulders and arms a sign of respect to his in-laws. Bayeni are led into the bride’s home by Intfombiyemtfwalo. Intfombiyemtfwalo is a young unmarried woman from the groom’s family who carries on her head, the groom’s bedding for the weekend; a pillow, and blanket wrapped in a grass mat. Bayeni enter the house they have been booked in and retire as Day 1 concludes.
On Saturday morning the bride and groom’s families kick off the morning with talks; pleasantries to formalize the weekend’s events and significance. Although this is a serious part of the ceremony, it is done in a sociable manner that supports the purpose of lobola which is creating a relationship and bond of kinship between the two marrying families. At these talks, the number of cows and their descriptions is repeated to the bride’s family. Both families then proceed to the cattle kraal to view the lobola cows before the groom’s family officially hands them over to the bride’s family.
It is also while in the kraal that the bride’s family points the groom’s family to a cow which they shall slaughter and feast on for the duration of the lobola ceremony. This cow is called Inhlabisabayeni. Once this formal part is concluded, socializing in the form of singing, dancing and chatter begins back at the bride’s yard. This goes on for most of the afternoon and is interrupted by feasting on Lugege and Inhlabisabayeni.
This is the final day. The main feature of this day is kungcingciswa kwenyongo (smearing of cow bile on the bride and groom). The bride smears bile on the groom and the groom does the same to his bride. This is the bile of the cow called Lugege. The smearing of bile signifies the sealing of their union – the same way that in some cultures the bride and groom exchange wedding bands to symbolize their union. Once this is done, the groom’s family is free to leave.
The next phase after the lobola ceremony is the celebration of the union in a ceremony called Umtsimba. During Umtsimba the bride and her family travel to the groom’s home to present him and his extended family with gifts over three days. This song and dance ceremony also starts on Friday and concludes on Sunday at the groom’s home.
Story and images by Neo Ntsoma
Price - GBP 250