By Zuko Komisa
Lobolo plays a very significant role in the marriages of many South African cultures. This long-standing tradition comes into the spotlight for its relevance in the 21st century.
Dr Sindi Van Zyl spoke to Cultural Expert, Nomagugu Ngobese and Kabelo Chabalala who wrote an article about “Lobolo being used as payback”.
In this modern-day and age, what is Lobala used for?
Kabelo Chabalala interrogates this idea that as a parent the price you require from the groom’s family is compensation for all the money you’ve ‘invested’ in your daughter’s success. He attributes this to some of the reasons given by parents during lobolo negotiations.
“Are you taking your child to school so that someone’s son in the future can kind of pay you back for you doing your responsibility of paying for school for your child’s education?” he asks.
He makes a point that by law, there is no prescription of what is exchanged, but a lobolo ceremony is recognised as a marriage ceremony, and that as South Africans we need to consider steering away from exchanging money but rather exchange gifts.
Listen to the full conversation:
The origins of Lobolo
Cultural expert, Nomagugu Ngobese argues that the practice was never prescribed as it is today, and connected the evolution of the practice being a contributing factor in domestic violence. She also added that today people are looking for ways to make money with very little consideration for the bride and groom who are about to start a life together.
“There was no prescription at all, it was an extension of two families coming together, but nowadays the bride’s side is prescribing many things to pay… we must remember as indigenous people of this country we were living communally, we would share everything but now it has changed. People have become individualistic, and are looking to gain through selling their own daughters.”
She goes on to say that over the years many thing have influenced how Lobolo has been practiced today, with modernism and colonialism playing a big part in how the original idea has been distorted.
The cost of appreciation
A caller spoke to Dr. Sindi to share his own experience, saying the common justification for the practice has always been that when a groom pays lobolo, he is showing appreciation to the bride’s family for raising her. He advocated that every man should decide how much he is willing to give and is able to give.
The conversation also covered aspects of who should be part of the negotiation, what happens when the bride or groom is part of the LGBTQI community, and how the core of the practice should be kept sacred.
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