Zimbabwe adopts hybrid roora ceremonies





A solemnised union before multitudes of adoring family members and friends is usually a dream come true for many couples.

“How was her dress? What about the cake? How was the decor?” These are some of the questions that are randomly thrown at people coming from a white wedding.

However, it seems a new trend is taking over.

The roora/lobola setting, which is seemingly a hybrid event combining the traditional ceremony and modern festivities, is now in vogue.

Under this arrangement, the bride-to-be’s friends and some relatives — known as the roora/lobola squad — usually accompany her on the day the bride price is paid.

The squad often dresses in distinct traditional African prints.

While some ultra-conservatives argue that this evolving trend is contaminating the essence of the traditional roora/lobola ceremony, this has not stopped the trend, as more and more people are embracing it.

Many couples are now preferring to forego the white wedding, opting to conveniently combine the roora/lobola ceremony and the exchange of wedding vows and rings to solemnise the union.

Businessman Tinashe “Nash” Mutarisi believes white weddings are unnecessarily expensive.

“I personally had a white wedding and I speak from experience. One thing for sure is that I don’t know over 70 percent of the people who attended my wedding. In fact, they never brought me presents but demanded good food,” he said.

“You don’t need to gather such people. A wedding day is too special to spend with some people you don’t know or who don’t add any value to you. The roora squad is enough for such an occasion.”

Receiving the bride price is usually marked by merry-making. In the past, the rite used to be sacred and was a milestone achievement for many. Families would gather and even deliberate on the issue before the arrival of the in-laws for negotiations.

However, the roora/lobola process has since been modernised after some locals decided to blend it with certain white wedding concepts. Fashion designers are now making a killing through costumes worn by the “squads”.

Those into baking also line their pockets, as some of the roora/lobola rites result in couples having cakes and other goodies for the occasion.

In reality, the rite is now more of a fashion show and display of flamboyance. The décor and some of the roora events are now classier than what used to be witnessed at traditional white weddings. This means, unlike in the past, one has to invest not only in the bride price, but the wardrobe, expensive drinks and food, among other things.

Mr Mat, real name Jonathan Muvingi, a wrestler, agrees with Mutarisi’s sentiments.

“True happiness is found when you get together with your close friends and family. The rest is just drama. Most of the people who attend those white weddings might not even support the union,” he said.

There are some who are of the opinion that while culture is dynamic, there is need to safeguard it against foreign influence.

“A white wedding is a borrowed cultural practice. Through the roora/lobola squads, we are trying to reidentify ourselves. Having friends (sahwira) at your roora/lobola day is part of our culture because nobody lives in isolation. What is important is to have real friends around you,” said Angeline Mbiriyamveka of Hatfield.

Socialite-cum-comedienne Felistas Murata (Mai TT) recently had what was described by some as the “Wedding of the Year”.

She reportedly spent about US$100 000 for the lavish event, which attracted high-profile guests and many other people whom she probably did not know.

Her fairy-tale love story, however, seems to have come to an ignominious end.

Village head under Chief Nenguwo in Marondera, Michael Chiokomhende, sees nothing wrong in roora/lobola ceremonies.

“People now realise that white weddings are a foreign concept and that they are also costly.

“We need to revert to tradition and maintain our identity,” said Chiokomhende.

Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs deputy president Chief Mtshane Khumalo weighed in.

“Our youths have been shunning our culture, regarding it as uncivilised. I would like to believe that if they get good teachings, they will appreciate that our culture is not associated with evil practices,” he said.

“A lot of people have been misled to believe that our tradition is incomplete without complementing it with the Western lifestyle. However, with the recently gazetted marriage law, roora/lobola is now officially recognised, which means we are gradually getting somewhere in terms of aligning our culture to our laws.”

Renowned social commentator and marriage counsellor Dr Rebecca Chisamba dismissed the notion that roora/lobola squads are a new phenomenon.

“For youths, this might seem new, but it actually existed years back. We used to have what we called mapondwe (younger sisters of the bride), who would accompany their sister during the marriage procedures.

“Maybe what has become new is that you are now including more of your friends. This is the part that people need to be careful of. It used to be specifically for blood sisters because the roora/lobola used to be more of a family ritual,” she said.

Mai Chisamba urged couples to be cautious when selecting squad members.

“The roora/lobola ceremony is a complete package for one to be regarded as married. Feasting is a plus. The main idea is to build a future for the newly married couple whom we will be wishing a lifetime union, not to treat marriage as a commercial contract. With the advent of technology, things are bound to change and culture is no exception. Everything has its pros and cons. In the end, it is up to an individual to choose what fulfils their dreams.” – Sunday Mail




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