How do you say lobola in Italian?

2013-08-26 00:00

WHEN Zamanyathi Mbense sat in front of an Italian man on a train to Zurich in April 2012 she did not imagine he would one day become her husband.

On Saturday Mbense tied the knot to Giacomo Lisetti in a traditional Zulu wedding, surrounded by family and friends in Bisley, Pietermaritzburg.

Lisetti, a legal adviser at a bank, was on his way to see friends 16 months ago.

Mbense, who at the time was employed by a telecommunications company, was travelling on the same train for work.

The pair hit it off and they soon Whats­apped, Skyped, and Facebooked their way into each other’s hearts.

“We used to talk for at least five hours a day. We both travel a lot, so we couldn’t see each other.”

The long-distance relationship was going well, but the couple needed to know whether it would work close up too.

“Chatting online, and being together is very different. We had to see if it would also work face to face,” said Lisetti.

In November, a nervous Mbense went to Italy to see Lisetti — the first time they would meet since their train trip.

Lisetti knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Mbense.

“Shortly after she left, my father fell very ill. The doctor told me there was nothing they could do. When I went to speak to my father, I knew it might be the last time I speak to him, and all I could think of doing was to show him Zama’s picture.”

Fortunately, Lisetti’s father recovered, and Mbense was able to meet him and the rest of the family. Although Lisetti didn’t formally propose, the couple had many conversations about Mbense relocating to Italy.

It was a difficult decision for Mbense as she would have to leave her job, family and friends.

But by March, Mbense knew she wanted to be with Lisetti and told him she would move to Italy.

“Giacomo said he wanted to meet my mother and tell her his intentions. I was like hold on, things don’t work that way, you can’t just tell her your intentions. I explained about lobola and he understood and did some research,” said Mbense.

Lisetti’s first trip to South Africa plunged him straight into Zulu culture.

Mbense asked a friend to act as Lisetti’s umkhongi (lobola negotiator).

With English as a fourth language and armed with a white umkhongi, Lisetti sat down with Mbense’s uncles for the lobola negotiations.

“I sat here for four hours and didn’t say a word. My umkhongi said everything. It was so funny, we didn’t use any names. We were representing the Lisetti family and asked about a girl in the Mbense family. After it was done, they told us that we can go back to Italy and tell the ‘boy’ he has permission. Of course they knew it was me,” laughed Lisetti.

“My friends asked me if I was worried about all the Zulu traditions. I was nervous at first, but after experiencing it, I realised that this is a beautiful tradition and a welcoming culture.

“Although on the surface things seem different, under the surface all this is done to welcome you into the family and to ensure that their daughter is marrying into a good family. Italians want the same thing too,” said Lisetti.

Mbense said: “I think my family always knew I would marry a European because of my travels. Meeting Giacomo wasn’t a shock to their system.

“Now all that’s left is for me to learn Italian, especially if I want to speak to his mother!”

The couple will leave for Italy at the end of the month and their families will meet in September when Mbense’s family visit Italy.

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