When two people get engaged in South Africa, one of the traditions they typically practice is lebola. Lebola is the equivalent of a bride price or dowry (or engagement ring in the States.) The men of both families meet to decide upon an appropriate “price” the man’s family will pay to the woman’s. It could be money but around here it’s usually cattle. People have told me my lebola would be very high- ten cows! twenty cows!- if I married here. I’m flattered, but no thanks.

My host dad’s niece just got married, but in order for her to receive a lebola, her father needed to pay a lebola to her mother, which he didn’t. Her father, my host dad’s brother, passed away, but my host dad had to complete a lebola ceremony in his name in order to complete his niece’s lebola process.

Friday night, a few relatives came to our house for the ceremony. I’m still unsure why, but tradition says the exchange of lebola (in this case, 6 sheep) has to happen after midnight. They made the exchange at 3 am, so I was already fast asleep, but I heard them screaming and singing at 4:30 when they were finished. Only the men can participate, so the women had to stay up the whole night just to cook. Fun.

In exchange for the sheep, my host family received buckets of traditional homemade beer. Apparently the screaming and singing in the wee hours of the morning is a “siren” to the men in the village that the beer will be drunk the next day. My host family doesn’t drink (which is AWESOME) so men came from the village to our house and drank the beer in order to complete the tradition. I’m not really a fan of any tradition that perpetuates the male drunkenness here, but oh well. Their job was to drink the beer and sing traditional songs until the beer was gone.
Singing African songs and dancing under the shade of a tall tree evokes a beautiful image, but their appearance and demeanor left a lot to be desired. Three words: This is Africa.

IMG00027-20130126-1104 (1)

Traditional beer, can you smell it through your screen?

In other news, my body is on fire, my electronics are on fire, and this little lizard found escape from the heat in my sink bucket.

IMG00029-20130126-1650Can’t blame him. Lucky guy.




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2 responses to “Lebola

  1. Laura Dent

    You are amazing. So excited for the school that accepted you, they are the lucky ones! I love you and hope you and Stefan can come visit this spring!!!

    Laura Dent cell: 727 687-8785

  2. Erica Panagopoulos

    Hi Marie!
    It’s your cousin, Erica. I just saw your blog for the first time today! It is great! I am so happy you are enjoying Africa and creating this amazing way to share and remember your experience!
    Lots of love,

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