Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Paying Lobola....

What is that??

I see you thinking??

Well, I was yesterday in a nail salon and the girl who was doing my hair was talking about that. She is living together with her boyfriend, but she thinks she is pregnant. So now she wants to get married, but he must FIRST pay the LOBOLA!

Lobola is a topic in South Africa that surfaces in everyone’s conversation across the colour and ethnic board. Lobola is the Xhosa word for dowry, paid for a bride as a sign of ubuhlobo (friendship) between the families and also serves as confirmation to the bride’s parents that the intended husband will be able to take care of his bride and subsequent family.
Lobola is still an essential part of African life, not only in Xhosa culture but also Zulu and other ethnic tribes of South Africa.

I thought in these modern times this is not done anymore, but YES, my nail artist who told me that her parents are dead and she is raised by her grandparents... now of course lives on her own, but they still want that LOBOLA!! But she wasn't sure if she wanted him as a husband, because he drinks too much. So she told me that after he paid the lobola she would leave him!!

How vicious!! I thought, but when I saw her smiling devious face, I was wondering, is he not coming after you and want his money back?? She told me that her grandparents in the rural area would have spent the money by the time he would come back to collect it. So NO, no returning of lobola, that is too bad for him!!

So you can see that the lobola is still a bit old fashioned but the rules are changing, because I am sure that in the olden days there would have been too much pride involved and if the girl would leave after the lobola is paid, some retribution would occur!

So then I asked how much is the price of a lobola?? Of course it all depends how wealthy a family is. But traditionally the Xhosa people were pastorialists and their wealth was determined by the number of cows they owned. In times gone by, young African grooms had to offer ten head of cattle for the bride’s hand.
Nowadays, the prospective groom has to provide the monetary equivalent of at least ten cows when lobola is negotiated with the bride’s family. (I have no clue what the price of a cow is?)

It is tradition that the bride’s family is not to be too hasty in their hospitality towards the groom’s family. At first glance the bride’s family does not appear particularly eager to part with their precious daughter! And thus before the groom’s family are permitted to enter the bride’s family homestead, a little negotiation to at least get past the gate is usually led by the ceremonious presentation of a golden egg – usually a bottle of something well matured and malty. They are then gingerly shown into the home, where they are met by the bride’s father and uncles.
Once inside the bride’s home, the anxious negotiators introduced themselves and produced an umvulamlomo. Directly translated from Xhosa, this is a mouth opener meant to get the negotiations under way. Although this bottle was not drunk immediately, it was welcomed by the bride’s family and thus African dowry negotiations kicked-off (led by the uncles only).

Lengthy lobola negotiations constitute a respectful, yet comically animated game of cat and mouse (or in Africa we would say a game of catch between a mighty lion and a graceful gazelle). The bride’s family is thus able to determine the sincerity of the groom’s marriage proposal.
Following the charade at the entrance gate to the bride’s family home, the next sequence unfolded. The groom’s family declared that their son had been blinded by a beauty from the visited household.
“What beauty? There are no beauties here!”, the bride’s family responded, with feigned shock and confusion.
The groom’s family then offered a third golden egg, this being another valued bottled of fine spirits.
“Ah, yes we do indeed have a beauty in our house. But she is much too young to be married and we’re not sure we want to lose our daughter so soon.”, lamented the bride’s family.
“Who will take care of us in our old age?”, they asked, very concerned.
Yet another golden egg emerged from the groom’s negotiators. With the resolve of the bride’s uncles now softened, the door to persuasion was opened for the formal negotiations of the dowry settlement.

A married Zulu woman vs a Maiden Zulu girl, dress code is totally different!

Traditionally, the bride’s family have a minimum dowry in mind. The groom’s family is required to negotiate a price within their reach, or one that they think is suitable. If a deadlock is reached (usually if the offered dowry price is too low), the groom’s delegation is promptly reprimanded by the bride’s family for insulting the bride’s father, and the groom’s negotiators are asked to leave, only to return if they are truly serious.
The groom’s family literally pick themselves up and depart the bride’s family home to re-strategise and establish a different approach to the lobola negotiations. These back and forth negotiations can quite easily take a couple of hours or an entire day for families to reach an agreeable dowry. Only once an amicable and befitting price has been achieved, can the groom’s delegation relax, drink the ceremonial umqoboti (traditional African beer) and eat traditional umgqusho (samp, served with beans and sheep). This denotes the bonding of the friendship between the two families.

source here.

Lobola is like a Dowry in the Indian and Pakistan culture, in the West it is not done. But then again I heard some comments of African men saying: "What about the diamond ring you pay for your bride? Isn't that the same?" I can see where they are coming from... So what do you think?? Is paying a diamond ring not another form of Lobola or Dowry??

Tell me how do you feel about this??
Mireille xx


Leah Maya Benjamin said...

I've never heard of beign turned away because the diamond was too small, and no negotiating between uncles and such. Very interesting.

plantagenet said...

very good article. Again the bridegrooms pay in Thailand comes to my mind, where the bridegroom pays to the brides family to marry her. Remember? I forgot the name in Thai.
I think in all agricultural societies it was usual to pay some thing (today its money) for the person which will not give its labor to the family when her/she leaves the family. In patriarchal societies its the girls parents to get rid of another eater, because she leaves the family to live with the man's parents. In other societies the woman has 'better value' and since she gives up supporting her family she will be 'paid' out by the bridegroom or his family. In some societies the girl stays with her parents and the husband comes to visit and the children from that marriage are hers and he is not even the bloodline 'father'. See the Mosu in China...
I guess the poor girl's Lobola will be paid back in the end, if she leaves him right away. Because she will have to bring up the kids herself anyway. Since this is the case in most of the relationships and the women take care of the kids themselves, it doesn't really matter, if money changes ways.... does it?

Maci Miller said...

Oh my! That's so interesting. Yea, I guess if you think about it we girls are expensive...one way or another haha! :-)

Anonymous said...

brideprice is common around the world. In the Solomons Is and PNG where I worked it is similar with men paying the family of the women.
The problem there is that there are very high rates of domestic violence and few options for women.
One of the reasons a womens family does not support her to leave her violent husband is because they have spend the brideprice and cant repay it.
commodification of women is a real problem.


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