3 Lobola reflections

2014-07-30 18:45

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How now brown cow?

It was the ultimate example of capitalism meets culture?–?KFC’s regional lobola competition. If you spent R40 or more at KFC, you could stand a chance to win 11 cows or R80?000 to pay off your lobola.

While a picture of the ad made the rounds on Twitter again recently, the campaign is from two years ago and the competition is no longer running.

The ad was pulled as some thought it was insensitive. I don’t think it is, though. It is simply a reflection of a country where paying lobola is the norm for most Nguni and Sotho couples.

I might have my own, personal, feminist views on why I think lobola as a concept is problematic, but I can’t fault the ad on its marketing value. KFC saw a great advertising opportunity and went for it.

It was relevant and in touch and I’m sure many people tried to win those cows.

–?Grethe Koen

You can never truly pay off lobola because your wife is priceless

Because she’s priceless

The practice of lobola or bohadi (in Sotho) is more than just a financial transaction between families. It presents an opportunity for a groom to declare his undying love for his woman in an act that is sweeter than a love letter or any romantic gesture Romeo could muster.

In Sotho culture, when the groom’s family delivers the money, it is considered polite that the amount not be paid in full. For instance, if the lobola is pitched at R10?000, a groom can place R9?500 on the table.

It is founded on two beliefs. First, that lobola is never finished nor paid in full. A man is forever indebted to his wife’s family for raising a wife for him and the mother of his children.

Second, it is to say that this precious woman’s value can’t be put in monetary terms.

A more romantic man would say: “This is how far my money can stretch. It’s not enough to afford you for I’m the lucky one to have you agree to spend the rest of your life with me.”

In the final analysis, lobola or bohadi is meant to be a symbolic expression of gratitude from a man to a woman. It surpasses monetary value.

–?Lesley Mofokeng

Many women have started paying their own lobola. Picture: Paballo Mrs Vice Kumalo

Sisters are doing it for themselves

Scholar Anthony FC Wallace wrote: “Theoretically, without lobola, patrilocal marriage would cease and the patrilineage system would no longer work; for a woman who married without lobola had to bring her husband to live with her family.”

This is because lobola specifies that a prospective husband, usually with the help of his relatives, must provide a substantial sum of money to his future wife’s family before the marriage is valid.

In many patrilineal societies, the payment is also made for the rights to assign children to their father’s family, rather than to their mother’s.

However, more women with the financial means to do so are considering paying their own lobola.

Same-sex unions have also seen a recontextualisation of lobola. Same-sex couples agree to either share the amount agreed upon by the families or the lobola is paid by whoever in the relationship proposes marriage.

Ubuhlobo (the relationship) is still created and built as would happen in a heterosexual union.

–?Gugulethu Mhlungu

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