The Shona Lobola Procedure!
Lobola, also known as Roora or dowry, is an integral part of the Zimbabwe traditional wedding ceremony. It is viewed as an outward sign of love when a man saves up and gives his bride’s family gifts in recognition for giving him a beautiful woman to marry. The Shona Lobola procedure takes place in stages, as detailed below. Enjoy the read!
- Through the Munyai (spokesperson for the groom/messenger), the groom states his intentions – to ask for the bride. By this time, the man has already proposed to the woman and informed his family that he plans to marry. When the Munyai is asked which girl they are referring to, he describes her as a the only beautiful flower in the home. The bride’s family then asks her if she knows the groom and his family.
- A list of items to be bought is given to the Munyai to pass on to the groom. The items include rice, hupfu, cooking oil, meat, tissues, soap, drinks, and flour packed in cartons or boxes. When the groom and his family return for the wedding ceremony, they present the items purchased, and the bride’s family checks off each item against the grocery list. Note that adhering to the requirements listed is a sign of respect.
C. Payment Preparations
- After handing over the grocery, the groom’s family is allowed in and shown where they will sit for the rest of the ceremony. The bride’s family, through their spokesperson, asks the Munyai for ‘Ndiro’ – a wooden plate. The plate is placed somewhere in the center of the gathering, then a process called ‘Sunungura homwe’ (loosening pockets) or ‘Vhuramuromomo‘ (opening of mouth) follows. This process involves paying a small fee for the greeting of the guests. At this point, some humor is introduced through fines – e.g., a fine may be imposed on the groom for not sticking to the original date of the ceremony. This segment of the ceremony puts the Munyai and the groom’s family at ease in preparation for a long day.
- There are two well-known payment stages:
- Zvireverere zvaBaba (Gifts for the father) – payments or gifts made directly to the bride’s father or guardian. The principal payment is called ‘Matekenya ndebvu,’ acknowledging the father’s role in raising his daughter (‘pulling of the beard’). The amount paid is negotiable.
- Zvireverere zvaMai (Gifts for the mother) – gifts or payments made directly to the bride’s mother. One payment is called ‘Mbereko,’ a gift for carrying the bride in a pouch or sling when she was a baby, and the other ‘Mafukidzadumbu,’ a gift for covering of the belly (carrying the baby while in the womb). Interestingly, the amounts paid to the mother are non-negotiable!
E. Mbudzi Yedare (Yemachinda)
- This stage involves the groom bringing a live goat to be slaughtered during the payment process. This goat is cooked and served at the end of the ceremony.
- If the groom does not bring a goat, he is required to make a payment instead, which is then shared equally between the young males in the bride’s household.
- At this point, the bride is required to take some money from the plate for herself, as a gift. The amount she picks is usually set by the aunts on her mother’s side and is a small contribution towards the ‘Mari inonhongwa nemusihare,’ for purchasing household and cooking utensils. The money is representative of all the expenses the groom would incur in preparing for the post-ceremony celebrations.
- The bride returns this money to the groom after the ceremony, to help pay for future wedding expenses. She may also choose to give her younger siblings some money.
- The Rusambo stage also referred to as the Roora or dowry stage is the most critical stage of the ceremony. The act of paying Roora is called ‘Kubvisa pfuma’ – parting with or giving of wealth. It is important to note that this stage can only take place if all the previous steps have been fulfilled successfully.
- The amount paid as bride price will vary according to the social class of the bride and groom. The bride’s family will, however, allow the groom to make a part payment if he is not able to raise the full amount required. If he is not able to make the part payment, however, the entire process is nullified, and he and his family will have to start from the first stage when they return. Most importantly, if he doesn’t pay up, he doesn’t get his bride!
- The next step in the Shona Lobola procedure is handing over the gift of cattle, frequently paid as cash. The amount paid should be representative of the market price for 7 to 8 cows.
- The most important cow is that of the mother, ‘Mombe Yeumai.’ This cow should be live, as it expected to produce offspring to prove that the union is blessed. The groom’s family must follow the Mombe Yeumai practice to the letter, to keep the maternal spirits happy, attentive and ready to protect his new family.
- As soon as the mother’s cow gives birth and the offspring is weaned, the cow is slaughtered by the bride’s family. It is then eaten at a thanksgiving occasion by both families, with the aim of strengthening the relationship between the couple and their two families. The slaughtering of the mother’s cow takes place between two and five years after the wedding.
- Note that the Danga stage can only take place after the Rusambo stage is concluded.
- The Majasi stage, dependent on the Rusambo stage, is the last Shona Lobola procedure. As the name (Majasi – clothes) suggests, this step involves presenting gifts of clothes to the bride’s family.
- After Rusambo is completed and the bride’s family is happy, the groom and his entourage are invited and welcomed into the family – a process called ‘Kupinzwa mumusha.’ The groom then greets his in-laws as a new member of the family with ‘Gusvi,’ the traditional clapping greeting. He is then made part of the household!
- Once he becomes a ‘member’ of the family, the groom is given a list of clothing items to purchase for the bride’s mother and father. The clothing items usually comprise a full outfit, from head to toe!
The Shona Lobola procedure is interesting to watch and participate in, both for the couple and the guests. Perhaps you should consider incorporating the entire procedure in your wedding!