Rituals in Zambia

Dating and Marriage

There are many rituals that occur in an indirect culture.

Words and conversations change as people stop and avoid certain topics when coming from a community based culture. Indirect culture is respectful and mindful of the larger picture but the larger structure gains the attention away from the individual.

During training, we had a sessions called Rituals By gender. We were separated by gender and we were told that usually Unmarried women never hear this in fear of being shamed or considered unclean. It was special information meant to be transferred only at the time of marriage.

The language trainers began with a skit that drove us in laughter. Seeing our Zambian companions pretend and act made me incredibly happy. It was a long day and to see them act as father and mother, grandmother and boyfriend and girlfriend made me laugh hard until I bruised my insides.

It began with a mother and father concerned about their daughter growing up and wondering if she will be a woman soon. (A girl is considered a woman after she has children). They called their daughter and of course she told them nothing substantial but in a shy manner. She was told to aid her grandmother. The daughter goes to her grandmother who she does confide in about wanting to marry someone but she doesn’t know if it will happen cause it was a small going love and her guy is America. The grandmother laughed and wished her the best but asked to get her some water.
Then at the “well”, the main guy appeared, the twenty four year language trainer in our training known for his sassiness and his lines. He comes in and talks to the daughter saying if she remembers the love they had for each other as he mimics pumping water for her. He carries the pail while trying to hold her hand. Ah, how we laughed!!!!

The main girl says she doesn’t want people to think bad of her seeing her alone with him and holding his hand. So the main guy then told her that he will make contact with her family in the next few days and to expect for them to continue. From there, she goes to her grandmother who them goes to her parents. All so indirectly.

He then goes to his uncle and tell him of a “flower” he had back an that he wished to plant her. Never did I hear the shrieking cries of laughter. He paid some money to his uncle. His uncle brings the covered plate of money to a headman who goes to the family. The father and mother act all surprised about the news though the grandmother had let them in. They sneak a peek at the money and happy they agree. The headman also agrees and reports to the uncle and soon the main guy and main girl are now engaged.

This scenario was filled with Zambian culture though we laughed. It was not because we were insensitive Americans but because we have come to know these trainers as close friends and respect them as teachers and elders.

Marriage is a family affair. It is the joining of tribes and names. It is the melding of villages. Girls are to be shy and not wanting attention. Hand holding is as far as they will go and that even is too far. Marriage is discussed by others and wanted by others. Discussions are never face to face (family to headman to family) to avoid disputes if the girls’ family doesn’t accept.

Divorce is a hard topic here in Zambia. That does not mean it does not happen. Divorce is discussed and mediated by the man who came with proposal of the wedding. Divorce is breaking up of families and they tried to avoid it as much as possible. If married at civil and government level, divorce is possible. If married at village level, it is increasingly difficult.

We of course talked about scandalous topics as separate groups but of course as respect to Zambian culture and their importance on valued information, I will not type it.

In Zambia, women and men share the same feelings as women and men do in America. The same fears and pains and wants an desires. Except they are behind close doors. That does not mean it is better. A husband can stop his wife and a cheating husband brings fault to his wife for not keeping him around. She has to defend him through it.

Women get rights but their voice is heard second. Their lines and family tree is important as their children are matrilineal but in a divorce, the men win the child.

Cultures are different but none is better the other. All we can do is not wish for a universal system but learn and understand the differences between each other. Enjoy our world, don’t ignore it.

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