May 22, 2013

Insaka: Changes in Traditional Marriage Process

Our next Insaka will be the first in a 2-part series. We will be discussing “Changes in Traditional Marriage Process." To participate on Twitter please use the hashtag #Insaka

Part I – Lobola. Sunday, May 26 at 6 p.m. CAT, 12 p.m EST, 9 a.m. PST.

Part II – Marriage Celebrations i.e. Kitchen Parties, Icilanga Mulilo, weddings. Sunday, June 2 6 p.m. CAT, 12 p.m EST, 9 a.m. PST.

Part I - Lobola
The tradition of lobola has existed for many centuries and has traditionally been a means of bringing two families together. However, like many traditional customs lobola is open to abuse and distortion.

Some men have expressed hesitation at entering matrimony for fear of being gouged by potential in-laws. And some see lobola as an antiquated custom that turns women into commodities to be “bought and sold.” 

It is also becoming increasingly common to see exorbitant money being charged for lobola. Does this harm the practice?

As the practice of lobola has become quite contentious does this lead to resentment in families and among couples entering marriage?

How do we take back lobola to intended purpose – appreciation, respect, unity between families.

How do different tribal groups tackle the issue of lobola? 

Part II - Marriage Celebrations 

Icilanga Mulilo and Amatebeto are traditionally practiced by the Bemba speaking people of Zambia. Icilanga Mulilo (literal meaning is "showing of the fire") is the ceremony that takes place before a couple weds. The bride-to-be's family prepares foods and beverage and delivers it to the groom. This is to introduce him to the foods he is likely to eat in his new home, and serves as an open invitation to dine with the bride's family during the courtship. Traditionally a groom is forbidden from eating in the bride's parents or guardian's home before this symbolic gesture. 

The foods, both exotic and familiar, are presented one by one. And it is explained that these are foods the bride will later prepare in their home. This occasion, other than being a "showcase" of the bride's menu, also symbolizes that the groom is responsible for the welfare of his bride from then on. He can now assume the responsibilities of taking care of his bride’s financial needs. The bride at this stage is also allowed to start cooking and doing laundry for the groom. 

Amatebeto is a ceremony for couples who are already married. Amatebeto symbolizes the appreciation of the groom by the bride’s parents for keeping a trouble free marriage. It is an acknowledgement by the bridge’s family that the groom is capable of looking after his wife well and that they have re-affirmed their blessing of the marriage

These two ceremonies are often confused by people, and many have come to refer to the Icilanga Mulilo as Amatebeto as it has become more mainstream and increasingly practiced by non-Bembas. Businesses have cropped up providing catering services, along with professional drummers and singers available for hire. 

Kitchen Party

This is similar to what is referred to in the west as a bridal shower. Guests bring gifts for the bride to start her home; these are often kitchen appliances, utensils, and home decorations. This has elements of both modern and traditional incorporated. The modern elements – gifts of big ticket household items like refrigerators and dining sets, traditional – gifts of pestle and mortar, a sieve, and cooking sticks. This is typically a woman-only domain.

Nowadays the kitchen party is often an opportunity to show off how generous the families are, and how not to be outdone. You must bring a gift, and not just flimsy, plastic wares! In recent times a trend has emerged with the groom making an appearance at the kitchen party, often with a bouquet of flowers and expensive gifts in tow. I’m not entirely sure why and how this started but this can be quite controversial, with no-show grooms facing the real prospect of wedding cancellations by irate brides. 


This one is self explanatory. Though we can touch on the necessity of these ceremonies when couples celebrate traditional ceremonies and rites. 


Cool! Thanks for your input.

I really do not understand the difference between these two terminologies clearly, matebeto and ichilanga mulilo. in form, these two look the same to me because what happens during ichilanga mulilo also happen at matebeto. so it is the intent of the event which makes the difference here! will try to be part of Insaka this time, I really need more info on this one. great discussion it will be.
But don't you think it would great to include " Icisungu, nkolola, (initiation ceremonies) " etc., on this one? people from the old school still ague today, that these used to play important roles in the modelling of the marriage. just thinking.

Looking forward to the discussion!

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Like your summary of icilanga mulilo and matebeto. For Norman who was a little confused by the two, cilanga mulilo is meant for only the groom and maybe his middleman, to allow him to eat freely at his in-laws before the marriage takes place. Only a few foods are prepared. Matebeto is a big affair where the man is honoured by the woman's family for taking care of her well over the years. It is not meant to be done before marriage. It is done after a couple has stayed together for months and better still several years.

slightly confusing but no doubt that its an herculean task to put everything here in detail, good job

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