As a 60-year-old qhikiza she has seen hundreds of young people from her village get married since starting her role at the age of 21. This time, however, it’s different. It’s her youngest daughter who must perform the tradition of ukumisa iduku which is a ritual performed by young virgin women as a way of making their love for a young man publicly known. “It was just two months ago when this young man, Zweli, gave my daughter ucu.” Ucu is a bracelet given secretly by a young man to a young woman he has identified as his potential wife. If the woman feels the same way, she will give the bracelet to her qhikhiza, to give to the family of the young man as a sign of approval. However, it doesn’t end there, the young woman must then prepare for ukumisa iduku.
We watched as Thembi, umama Slindile’s daughter, prepared for all of this. She first took a white cloth and put it on a long stick. Umama Slindile couldn’t stop herself from helping her daughter while she prepared for her ceremony. She even got teary as she realised that her daughter is growing into a woman. Once the cloth was steadily placed on the stick, Thembi had to walk all the way to Zweli’s home, accompanied by a few other virgins and their qikhiza to the young man’s home.
The young women were dressed in imvunulo, which is a traditional Zulu attire. Thembi’s one was slightly longer, indicating that she was no longer single and was promised to a man. As they walked the women accompanying Thembi were singing as part of the activities that elevate the ceremony this continued all the way to Zweli’s home. However, as they got closer, they stopped singing. Thembi now needed to tie the cloth to a long pole and bind it to the corner of the kraal, this needed to be done discreetly in order for her not to be seen by her lover’s family after which they immediately left the area as part of fun and exciting element of the traditional practice.
When Zweli and his family find the cloth, this would be their second confirmation that Thembi has agreed to be Zweli’s lover. “This is a respectful way for a young couple to let the families know that they’re together. I wish more young women would adopt this tradition. A relationship laid on a foundation of respect, is a relationship that lasts”, added umama Silindile.