I still remember some eight or more years ago when I was getting engaged traditionally – Chinkhoswe. It was a very cold June afternoon at my wife’s parents house. I was waiting in a room for the function to begin with my brother-in-law (not my wifes brother) and someone else. My BIL suggested they go and buy some brandy for me to drink so I ‘blend’ into the function nicely. I resisted for many reasons, chief amongst them being in the cold weather, I would be required to make frequent trips to the shanks. My resistance was futile. He left with this other person and promised to be back in no time. I started devising ways of how I was going to avoid that drink like a plague. To my relief they never returned. It later turned out that as they were on the way to buy the potent substance, they stumbled across a friend’s braai in the area and got carried away. They returned to the chinkhoswe hours later but with no brandy in hand – they had forgotten the purpose of their mission.

I sat through the chinkhoswe just fine. My wife and I and our ‘assistants’ sat on a mphasa (reed mat) under a tree in the garden the whole time. It was not the most comfortable sitting experience but once in a while I stood up and that took away the discomfort. But then a new discomfort found it’s way in the new shoes I was wearing which were rather tight. I also remember there was the akuchikazi (the brides side) out singing akuchimuna (the grooms side). Our side was constantly bailed out by a sister-in-law of mine and my sisters. Otherwise I can admit here and now that we were seriously outnumbered and outplayed in the singing department. Then there was the kufupa (giving money) when a metal dish was deliberately placed in front of us so that when someone was giving us advice, a coin would be thrown in to spice up the event. Otherwise it was a great event and very traditional.

Over the years I have noticed great differences in how zinkhoswe’s are being held. The signing ladies and drums are long gone, the events are rarely held in the parents backyard, the mphasa is not a seat of choice anymore and that metal plate is no longer welcome.

I am not a known advocate of preservation of traditional practices but I would love to see that culture maintained and strengthened. Nevertheless all zinkhoswe’s are fun!

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Austin Madinga's Life Unbound