Wedding Photographer

Zimbabwe – the rise and rise of marriage before marriage

Once a small family affair, the roora is getting a makeover for the era of reality TV and social media.

A white tent floated in front of the Simango family home. On a sunny day, dozens of guests in festive attire streamed inside, oh and aah at the elegant decor: white-dressed tables adorned with gold wine glasses, gold placemats and roses white artificial flowers, all in service to raise a toast at the end of a negotiation. .

For two hours, the families of Tapiwanashe Gladys Simango, 28, and her fiance, Obvious Muzawanga, 31, engaged in a long South African marital tradition. Known as roora in Shona and lobola in Ndebele, the event marks the groom to pay a dowry and symbolically merge the two families.

The practice has predated Zimbabwean weddings since pre-colonial times, but what was once a small family event has gotten a makeover in the age of reality TV and social media. Couples want to emulate what they see on their screens, no matter the cost. “Because they put it in the public domain, it has to look decent, it has to be trendy, it has to be fashionable,” says Sithabiso Mazibeli Marangwanda, chief operating officer of Nematombo Group, a event organization company in Harare, the capital.

In Zimbabwe, a couple is considered married after their roora; later, many hold a larger celebration known as a white wedding. But in recent years, rooras have become so elaborate that, for some families, they are essentially the first of two marriages. “Several factors have had an impact on the sudden and heightened rise in roora events, including the bride and groom becoming aware that the occasion is their traditional wedding and a notable event,” says Farai Chakabuda, events strategist in Harare who oversees a marriage. industry rewards program.

Simango spent more than three months and hundreds of dollars on the roora event last year at his family home outside Harare, hiring a caterer, decorator and photographer. She bought a stunning black and gold dress, as well as matching dresses and headpieces for her nine-member roora team. “With my husband, we’ve always tried to make sure that for the things that matter to us, we celebrate in a memorable way,” Simango says, “so from there I then thought about how we would like to remember our day roora.”

The roora has proven to evolve with the times. Centuries ago, a groom’s family would gift a hoe, blankets, baskets of grain or cattle to a bride’s family, according to a study published in the Journal of Southern African Studies. In the mid-1800s this gave way to gold and firearms purchased from Portuguese traders. In its current incarnation, roora involves money, or the promise of money.

Throughout, the event remained a mostly intimate affair. Elizabeth Mukupuki married in 1981. “During this time, the ceremony was not publicized as it is done now,” says the 60-year-old, who lives west of Harare in the town of Norton. “It was a bit of a secret as it was feared that if a lot of people were told you might be bewitched so the ceremony wouldn’t take place.”

About ten people attended the Mukupuki roora. After the talks, the guests feasted on meat and sadza, a thick porridge, which her husband brought as part of the bride price. “Now things have changed,” she says.

Marangwanda noticed the change about five years ago. “It probably started off by saying, ‘Let’s just have a tent and some chairs so people are a little more comfortable while they’re eating,'” she says. Soon wedding wish lists became more ornate. “We started incorporating things like hari, huts, mbira, drums, rattles to represent our Zimbabwean culture.”

These days, it’s not uncommon for his company to oversee five rooras on a single Saturday, and more than 20 a month — a demand that only briefly waned during the pandemic. Its roora packages cost between $300 and $2,000; the most lavish includes decorations, catering, photography, a cake, and a sound system to play music. However, even a bargain is often a splurge, as the country’s average household income is around $114 a month, according to a 2020 report by the Food and Nutrition Council, a government-regulated agency. .

It’s no coincidence that the roora’s makeover coincided with the rise of social media. Simango, for example, turned to Facebook for roota inspiration. Marangwanda also credits “Our Perfect Wedding,” a popular South African TV show that follows engaged couples as they prepare for often ornate nuptials. She has seen roora’s budgets double as families give in to social pressure to host a swoon-worthy event. “The purpose of these ceremonies is to let people know that our daughter or our son is married,” explains Rekopantswe Mate, a sociologist at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. “But celebrations are for those with money and resources.”

Not everyone is impressed. Some traditional healers frown upon golden rooras, and especially long guest lists. In Zimbabwean culture, a roora guest who secretly opposes the union could ruin the couple’s luck. “It invites bad omen because even people who are not happy for the wedding to take place will come,” says Constance Makomo, a traditional healer in Harare. “Some end up having trouble conceiving, and for some the marriage won’t last long.”

Simango does not regret his roofa. Once the families agreed on a bride price – cementing Simango and Muzawanga as husband and wife – the revelers broke out into song and dance. The aroma of lunch wafted through the tent: chicken, beef stew, cow’s feet, sadza, rice. Then come hours of gospel and traditional music, laughter, vibrations of happiness. The couple’s white wedding is months away, but they had already started planning the festivities.

This article was originally published by Global Press Journal.

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa is a Global Press Journal reporter based in Harare, Zimbabwe. She is an economics and education journalist.