I started packing in the afternoon. I did not have much packing to do, only had to look for decent, warm clothes to wear, everything else was in my suitcase.
I was at my aunt’s place and she was going to accompany me to my in-laws’ place. According to the Shona culture a new bride is accompanied by her aunts or sisters to his new family. The bride and her aunts are left to crawl into the in-laws’ compound while covering themselves in a white cloth. They crawl for a distance and stop, the in-law’s side of the family throw the bride money so they can continue to crawl their way into the house. The charade goes on with the bride taking a few steps and stopping to receive money, the in-laws’ side of the family will be singing songs: depending on their own tradition, some sing mean songs, some pinch the bride while at it and some sing happy praise songs. Lucky me they sang me praise songs. This ceremony is called kuperekwa.
The bride has to to be wearing a head wrap, which is ok but I still don’t know why she has to crawl. So yes we crawled into the house, had to sit down folding our legs until a time when we were allowed to unfold them. I even had to sit with my head facing down and when they made jokes I couldn’t laugh. Again, all I know is it’s tradition so I bit the inside of my lower lip and had my tongue touch the upper part of my mouth so I wouldn’t laugh (tough experience). We were served sadza with green vegetables and chicken, which we weren’t supposed to finish from our plates, so we did what was expected of us. People said a few speeches and we were allowed to rest for a few hours. All this took place in the evening and by the time we were told we could rest it was already after 1am.
I didn’t even sleep, I don’t know if it was the fear or the excitement.
At 3am my two aunts and me were up, sweeping the compound. We made a few heaps of litter so they would throw money on the heaps first so that we would pick up the litter. We started a fire and heated water for everyone present to bath. I had to serve bathing water and body cream to everyone starting with the father and mother in law. After bathing they would leave money in the bucket. The experience was totally fun plus who doesn’t love money. After everyone was done bathing, we prepared sadza, vegetables, soup and fried chicken and I had to serve everyone, kneeling as per Shona tradition, nothing new there.
After we had washed the plates, people dispersed, even my aunts had to leave after they showed me to my husband’s bedroom and as per our tradition they made the bed for us.
So there I was, in a new environment with new people who probably had their own way of doing things: I was scared considering the stories of ruthless African inlaws and abused daughters in-laws I had heard.
Lucky for me, I only stayed with my mother-in-law, sister in law and her son for a while to familiarise with them: that’s also tradition and we call it kutamba chiroora. My mother in law was very nice to me, and so was my sister in law. Mother-in-law allowed me to not wear a head wrap and a zambia (an African fabric wrapped by the woman on her waist) and that was great news to me; you see a daughter in-law has to dress decently, wear a head wrap and a zambia, that is how it should be. Some families insist the daughter-in-law wears those until she bears them a grandchild (I feel that’s cruel … story for another day). I did have to wear those only when my father-in-law was around which was barely.
Sister-in-law was the sweetest (still is), she showed me the way around the house, not that I didn’t know how to do my chores but every family has its own different way of doing things, hence she taught me all I had to know. I’m grateful for her, I hear most women have spiteful sister-in-laws, mine is an angel. I was generally treated like a daughter, I never felt out of place and I was able to gel in without feeling like an outcast, (mutorwa, as most people would call a daughter-in-law, loosely translating to one who was brought).
I respect my culture and I also think there is always a way to follow it reasonably without discriminating the other. Culture does promote good relations but people have twisted culture to suit their own selfishness.