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Courting Story: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina

Lives of Girls (Valentina Chauke)
Courting Story


30 December 1995, Facazisse

H: So you met your husband through the church?
V: Mmm. He was tall. When we walk, I go—[V looks upward], he goes—[V looks downward]. "Well, what are you looking at?" I'm always creeping around, hiding, I go "ngu-ve, ngu-ve, ngu-ve." [V indicates crawling around, to catch a glimpse of him] I want to see the face of that tall one.
H: But why were you hiding?
V: [V shakes her head] Hoh! He's a man. The elders in the church, they say, "Respect your husband!" He comes to visit, in the afternoon, he goes to the teacher.
H: So he was also in the Makuvulane church?
V: Ee-ee. He's a Rikhotso, a Ubisse. 1 He was in Mavavaze. António, Ubisse. [He finds me] here, when he comes to church—mmm—when the month ends, when they come to worship with us.
H: And did you like this boy, when you saw him?
V: Yee! Heh-heh! [laughs] I was happy. My heart, in me, there was great happiness! Really, really [V looks upward]. When I got married, they were sitting outside, the heathens, drinking byala. They say, "Heh!" They call me. Me, I go, "Papa?!" [laughs] when I see a man, and they say, "Heh!"—[V folds her hands, looks upward] Hah!—because those heathen women, they say, "You!" They can't say, "Bava [father]?" They say, "You!" I say, "Father?"—I'm accepting [his summons], truly. Everyone in the church, we know that the man, your husband, he's "bava." When you give birth to a child, he's papai. 2 He's the papai of the child. . . .
H: So before your husband asked you to marry him, you had never spoken to each other, he didn't try to court you?
V: Yee!! [laughs] Long ago, the church, they prayed well; you didn't have secrets, talk secrets with young men.
H: So you didn't know that this boy wanted to marry you?
V: How would I know? Hee! He tells the teacher; they talk about it. You don't know about it. You were small, when you see each other, he comes to talk to you. Do you reject him? Reject him, when you're told by the teacher?
H: So how did you feel when the teacher told you that this boy wanted you?
V: Oh, you understand. You understand.
A: Weren't you happy about it?
V: Hoh! What will you know? He'll say to you, "Well, you. . ."; will you say, "Heh, I don't want him!"? You accept. You please the heart of the teacher—the one who courted you for the young man.
A: But were you happy?!
V: Hee! That young man [V shakes her head]—I was really happy. Even if he wasn't beautiful, his heart was pure.
A: So you loved him?
V: Truly, truly. . . . Then he goes and takes money, he gives it to Daniel. The money [says], "I want that girl." It's the money for kuqoma 3. . . . Daniel, he gives it to father, that Matoyi. 4 [My husband], he's happy. He says, "I didn't believe you would accept me!" I was beautiful. [laughs] When I walk, here [V pats her hips], they sang! I go, "Nduti-nduti-nduti,"—legs, I had them! Eee! Heh! [V pauses] When long ago, they believed that a person wakes up, when he dies—he would wake up, when he sees that I've stayed here. He would come to see me.
H: Would you like that, vovo?
V: [V snorts] When a person dies, does he wake up?!
A: He doesn't wake up.
V: That's how it is. . . .
H: What was your wedding like? Did you marry in the church here?
V: Isn't it my home, the church? Mmm. I married in the church. [But] it was the church of long ago, long ago, long ago! [This church now], they hadn't yet built it. 5 It was really long ago.
A: Was your wedding beautiful?
V: Maybe it was beautiful, maybe it wasn't beautiful, we had nothing to do with those things. I'm going to my vukatini with my husband. The man, he's beautiful, the church, it's beautiful. Even if it's a mucato [wedding], 6 your wedding is your husband. It's only not beautiful if you go in sin [i.e., pregnant]. Me, I didn't sin. I married.
H: Did a lot of people attend?
V: Eee! Kin?! People of the country?!
A: Were there cakes?
V: Hah! Aida, Aida! [to H:] Do you see her?! [laughs] You really make a lot of noise! Ah! Mm-mm. Aida. Hah! [V shakes her head] I'm going to tell N'waAsa [i.e., A's mother]—I'll say, "Eh, that Aida, your daughter, she's testing, testing me!" [laughs]
H: But vovo, it's not Aida's fault—it's me. I'm asking so I can learn about your wedding.
V:  [to A:] Do you hear me? She's come to take our news! She'll take our news, she'll go home with it, we'll never see her again!
A: Our weddings here, and weddings in her country—they're not the same. Well, she wants to learn about things here.
V: And theirs, what happens?
A: At her place? She'll tell you!
H: Mmm, vovo, if you want to know, I'll tell you!
V: Heh! You'll tell me?
H: Mmm.
V: I want to know about those things that are beautiful, those things. I don't want to know about those things that go off the path, into the bush! Because it's big news of ours, that you're taking. [Your weddings], I don't know, maybe they're beautiful, maybe you drink that bitter stuff, or maybe xarope 7—we don't know these things!
H:  Well, this is what we did at our wedding. [H describes her wedding ceremony]

Courting Story: Author | Albertina | Rosalina | Valentina


Note 1: Two names for the same clan.  Back.

Note 2: Papai (from the Portuguese pãe): father.  Back.

Note 3: Kuqoma: Zulu term for choosing a lover. The kuqoma offering represents the young man's commitment to marry and give lovolo for the young woman. At this point I asked Valentina how much her husband gave for her, for kuqoma and lovolo, because most other interviewees seemed to enjoy talking about the quantities of goods transferred to their family when they married. Valentina insisted that this was "men's business" and that people shouldn't always be asking "How much? How much?" about a woman's marriage.  Back.

Note 4: Matoyi Malati, son of Valentina's father's sister's; like Valentina, he was raised by N'waXavela Mazive. Valentina calls him bava (father) because he was the senior male in the household when she was growing up.  Back.

Note 5: The present church building at Antioka was built in 1926.  Back.

Note 6: Mucato: a Zulu term for a formal church wedding.  Back.

Note 7: Xarope: concentrated juice syrup. By "bitter stuff" Valentina means Coca-Cola.  Back.


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