On Friday morning I woke up in rural Zululand and found a short German woman in her sixties in my lounge. She said in heavy German accent – “no English”. Only in Ingwavuma would I be sharing a house for three nights with Germans, one who doesn’t speak English.
They had arrived on Thursday for a wedding.
On Saturday morning I woke up to the German lady’s granddaughter getting ready for her wedding in the house’s bathroom.
When I tried to catch a lift to the wedding with the doctor living next door- I landed up in the car of the groom and the bride’s brother. And so I drove with the groom that I had met the day before past greenhills and bush and goats, and went to his wedding in Zululand on Saturday.
The community was invited – I wasn’t entirely gate crashing just because I wanted to write an interesting blog post.
And that is how I was at the wedding where Bithja, a pretty German girl with pale skin, a clear voice and curly hair married Ayanda, a tall Zulu man from the “deep rural” parts of Zululand.
There isn’t much accommodation in Ingwavuma so Bithja’s family stayed in the same house where I rent a room. The house is on the property of the hospital superintendent whose wife did the flowers and food for the wedding. The wedding had been planned in two weeks.
The image of Bithja’s thin very German-looking mom, who flew in for three days for the event, putting her arm around Ayanda’s mama – a rural, large Zulu woman in a bright purple satin suit is impressed in my mind.
Two worlds could not be further apart – everything takes time Zululand, where roads are potholes and unemployment is the norm and life is slow. Germany is efficient, first world Autobahn land.
Ayanda’s mom is probably not educated. Bithja’s mom comes from Germany and one can only assume she is.
Ayanda and Bithya met three years ago in Worster in the Western Cape at YWAM training school, a Christian mission training place. They fell in love.
Apparently, when Bithja wanted to get married to Ayanda earlier this year her parents came to middle of nowhere – it is the middle of nowhere and freaked. This is the place I go for walks and come face to face with a cow, literally. People live without water, electricity and jobs and plant mielies in their gardens and keep goats.
Ayanda has not studied which is normal for a man from Zululand who would have limited opportunities.
But on Saturday the two finally got married in front of Bithja’s family and best friend and Ayanda’s mother and church friends and a few random community members like me.
When Bithya arrived to walk down the aisle, some of the Zulu congregation spontaneously got up and ran behind her singing in Zulu. Who needs a wedding march when the members of the church will sing in Zulu and dance behind you as if choreographed? Grandmothers in the church, better known as Zulu goggos, started to ululate (praise singing) and the song playing as a wedding march was drowned out.
I cannot begin to imagine what Bithja’s granny, originally from East Germany, thought of her granddaughter getting married in deep rural Zululand in a church with no walls.
The church, the couple got married in, consists of a large concrete slab with a metal roof on large steel poles. It has the most gorgeous view of the unspoilt green mountains with the odd hut and small house.
Three weeks ago, builders from Empangeni, a city three hours away, built the church roof and laid the concrete slab as part of a church mission week. So the ceiling and floor have been in existence for a little under a month.
The church was a tent over dust a month ago.
I sat in the wedding, looked at the magnificent purple flowers at the front and watched a cow in the distance turning in circles and eating grass.
Bithja looked beautiful in her long cream dress made by her granny. Her curly hair and make-up also looked lovely even though it had been done by her friend in the bathroom. Her bouquet was magnificent and purple. This wedding was planned in two weeks.
At one point in the ceremony, an old goggo in a skirt and blue suit jacket, that looked like a man’s suit jacket from the eighties, started to dance and sing. Many older women joined her and danced around the seated couple. This was after the church youth started singing and dancing for the couple.
Silvia, a Swiss nurse who married a South African Afrikaaner and adopted a Zulu baby and has her own, sang a song even though she had admitted she doesn’t have a good voice. The words were beautiful though. Ayanda’s brother sang a song he had written for them and a teenager read a poem about love.
A few drunken dishevelled men also did a walk in unison, waved their hands like bad eighties music video and marched around the seated married couple.
Never would a girl from Stuttgart be able to envision a wedding like this. It wasn’t an average German wedding. I imagine a German wedding would be inside and people would not sit on plastic garden chairs staring at African hills singing English and Zulu songs.
It wasn’t a traditional Zulu wedding either. The pastor was white and English and did the whole “you may kiss the bride” service with a translator turning it all into Zulu.
We ate a meal, after the wedding, of Rice or Samp with chicken and beef and beetroot and beans on plastic plates. Ladies had cooked the meal for 150 people in enormous black, steel pots over the fire. It is a Zulu tradition to feed guests after the wedding. Apparently, some random grandpa stood outside and asked where his cake was.
Luckily the couple’s close friends and family went to Ingwavuma’s NGO (where else?) to have a seated dinner in the evening with a classy meal on ceramic plates and cake and brownies and balloons.
Now Ayanda and Bithja are staying in the house where I stay and I am so glad to know there are people talking in the background, albeit a couple on honeymoon and off to life in Germany soon.
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