I am an African, I Will “Buy” My Wife

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philani nyoni readingBy Philani Nyoni

One of the problem with Africans is that when they become educated they begin to despise their roots. I don’t talk poetry, I live it. People often say they will do anything for their lovers but balk when asked to buy them.

I wouldn’t be caught dead calling myself a feminist, I think all people are equal but some are more assholes than other. I don’t believe in gender equality, I think weak men are the reason behind it. I need to take care of my woman, she should enjoy my protection, my strength as I must enjoy her gentleness, which is not the same as weakness. Have you ever seen the defiance of a woman? Think of ‘The Barricade’, Eugène Delacroix’s depiction of the French Revolution. I bet you noticed the woman with the nice boobies holding the tri-colour!

I believe in lobola. Of course this might sound outdated and blah, but have you ever attended a lobola ceremony? When it’s done properly a man should beg for his wife, run from his father-in-law a couple of times before he finally locks the deal. A lot of ‘thinkers’ take it superficially, seeing the transfer of cattle as the sale of a woman. That’s an insult to my people.

A lobola ceremony is designed to frustrate you, and test your determination

Let’s break it down. One of the many things tested during a lobola ceremony is tenacity. Then there’s patience and resourcefulness. We often say we will do anything for our loves but balk when asked to buy them. A lobola ceremony is designed to frustrate you, and test your determination, that’s why you call half your tribe to accompany you and your would-be in-laws make absurd demands. They are not pimps, it’s because they love their own and expect the same depth of love from you. They will put obstacles before you, and a man who truly loves his wife-to-be will overcome them all. And we all know Ndebeles love their meat, any man to waste a woman after parting with at least six cows has to be out of his goddamn gourd.

In Ndebele society, you did not lobola the woman but the children. Consider that an insurance policy. Suppose you die in war, or get gored by a wild animal, or I don’t know, in my case go clinically insane…who will feed your kids? Duh, your in-laws! See, we did have life assurance!

When two people split after a life together, it’s usually the woman that gets the shaft. Since the man is the traditional bread-winner and owns everything in the home including the kids until they misbehave, lobola ensures her independent wealth. Women still get out of relationships with nothing to show for it, especially if it’s a traditional arrangement which does not automatically assume community of property, where does she go when you have ruined her life and made her bear your children?

And the one thing many people fail to understand is that most people never finish paying their lobolo. I don’t think my father’s done and here I am about to die, in time I will finish up for him, it’s probably a single note now but there is something very symbolic in owing someone and still seeing them regularly.

The problem with Africans, well, at least one of, is that when they get educated they begin to despise their roots. I don’t talk poetry, I live it; I will do anything for my woman, even buy her. I have chickens now, well, at least one, it’s going to have sex soon and have little chikenlets, and then I will buy goats, largely because I am Ndebele and a carnivore unless I can’t afford meat. Even though the exchange rate for goats and cows is quite lucrative (I:3, and goats birth twice a year, twins often) I will be damned if I buy my wife with goats. It might cause her to say something which might make me beat her up.

I want to pay for her, so her in-laws won’t hate me, and most of all so they can sleep at night

Africans are traditionally reluctant to educate daughters because when they marry they assume new surnames and enrich the hubby’s family. My grandparents for example had a soccer-team of children, literally, eleven of them. It worked well, getting water five kilometres away, collecting firewood and cooking the meals. Children were regarded as wealth, free labour so to speak, tilling the land and all that. Our people were conscious of the fact that in a well organised system a large population is not a burden to the state or the environment, nature will always find ways to cull us. On the contrary, each person has the potential to generate wealth. The males would enrich their homes and import new people in the form of wives. Now in that context was it wrong to ask for a little compensation for their daughters? Hell, kill someone right now, and their dependant has legal grounds for a civil lawsuit after the state has sent you to go get raped in prison. Even the law inherited from the pinnacles of Western civilisation agrees that a human life has a monetary value.

Now that we are warming up to educating girls even though they will become assets to other names, is it bad to ask a little for raising the mother of your kids? Ungrateful bastards! I bet most of these so-called progressive minds so anti-lobola are worth less than the starving artist I am! The woman I would marry (if my meds worked) has a degree, a great career and her eyes on a postgraduate, in Africa kids are assets and after rearing one so well, how manly will it be of me to talk of love as if that will feed her and compensate her family for the good job? I want to pay for her, so her in-laws won’t hate me, and most of all so they can sleep at night knowing I can take care of her, my children, and so she knows I am worth it, and I won’t leave her, because a Ndebele man parted with cattle for her.

Besides, I am the only boy between two sisters, so if we all stick to tradition I might make a profit.

(Philani Amadeus Nyoni is a published Zimbabwean poet (“Once A Lover ALways A Fool” and “Hewn From Rock”), short story writer and actor. His writings have been published in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday News, Zimbabwe Metro, South Africa Metro, Consciousness.co.za and Ghana Poetry Foundation).