SHARE   |   Wednesday, 10 May 2017   |   By Emmanuel Bane

Mmabao was stunning in her blue German print dress as was the husband in a black suit and bow tie.This was the first wedding to occur in uncle Chwene's homestead and the jubilation was unmatched. The husband worked in the mines and it was a rite of passage that upon returning from his first sojourn to the mines he must be married off immediately, for he was now a man. Interestingly, almost all boys that went to the mines absconded. They will start the day as normally as it came, driving the cattle to the grazing veld in the wee hours of the morning. However, on the chosen day, they never returned. This was mainly due to the fact that should they mention wanting to go to the mines they risked not only being scolded but perhaps being thoroughly walloped as well for it was every boy's duty to look after the family herd for as long as they could resist absconding! Rabao was no exception. He had vanished without notice one day twelve months ago. When he returned, his uncle was as per custom the first one to open his blue metal trunk and pick any piece of clothing he fancied. This gesture meant that the boy was immediately forgiven and was simultaneously welcome into manhood.A number of interesting events had taken place prior to this wonderful day. While at the mines Rabao had written countless letters to Mmabao. Although I cannot speak intelligently about the letters that reached her, I was guilty of transgressions that may have rendered the wedding impossible had it not been of Rabao's persistence. On numerous occasions I had intercepted letters meant for Mmabao. The mail was collected at the village kgotla where all the villagers, especially young women gathered every afternoon to either receive letters or parcels. It was on my way from collecting such that my curiosity got the better of me and I opened and read such letters.

Rabao  must have written a letter a day! Often one trip to the postman yielded more than three letters. This was a mean achievement given that the letters came from a different country. He wasn’t a man of many words Rabao. In the very first letter that I mischievously opened it was a single sentence. No address of sender, no date, no salutation! Just a single sentence that read "ke kopa jolling koo go wena!” The hand writing itself was almost impossible to decipher. It looked like he was at great pains whenever he attempted to write. It would not be far-fetched to suggest that the pen appeared to have been held between his toes as opposed to normal writing.  Once Rabao had told his own uncle of his intentions through an equally brief letter, the wedding preparations had started in earnest many months ago. He could not contain his happiness upon learning that his choice of wife had passed the pre-wedding test with flying colours. As soon as the prospective husband had identified a prospective wife, his family would visit hers primarily to check out if in their wisdom their son had made a wise choice. Many a wedding had ended before they could even start primarily because upon arriving at the girl's place, the parents had discovered that such a yard was a no go area. This was mainly on account of suspecting such a family to have been purveyors of witchcraft! Mmabao was cleared of all wrongdoing, hence the dancing and singing that was coming from Uncle Chwene's homestead.

The next letter was equally brief. I couldn’t figure out if the two were already in a relationship or not. Rabao had simply asked for her clothes size! Though I had not met him yet, I liked Rabao already. He was clear, direct and brief. He knew exactly what he wanted and went for it without fear or favour. Exactly a year from the time I first unlawfully opened her letters, Mmabao was having a day of her life. It was a spectacle to behold as she emerged from the mud hut where she was being dressed by the elderly ladies. As she stepped out, Uncle Chwene immediately took her arm and walked her to the huge “motlopi” tree. There were no fancy tents then, no red carpet, no huge bridal parties that danced better than the bride and groom, no; it was just two people madly in love with each other!As they approached the shade Uncle Chewne broke into a dance. He treated the audience to his unorthodox dance moves, occasionally going down on one knee and gesticulating violently. He spoke and sang at the same time. As they came closer and closer it  became clearer why ladies had suddenly broken into wild ululations! Around his neck, not tied to any shirt dangled his famous white tie. Age and lack of proper care had affected its original color rendering it more grayish than white. When he approached the single table that awaited the bride and groom, somewhere from the crowd came the soothing but piercing voice of a female singer. Everyone froze. She stood up and walked towards the table,still singing, her neck seemingly stiff with veins surrounding the neck almost exploding!. It was the famous song. The song about Uncle Chwene's white tie! “Obuseng o rekile tie e tshweu Rimbose (x3); Tie e tshweu Rimbose (x4).

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The song sent my uncle into frenzy; as he dashed towards the lady and in a rare show of affection, kissed her forehead! The two of them stood by the table and waited for the groom to arrive. Still she sang the song with so much gusto. At that point Uncle Chwene was smiling from ear to ear for the song reminded him of his wedding many years ago. He was of course marrying the same woman who was now singing about him! Suddenly there was pandemonium. People walked over each other in a senseless stampede; each person wanting to catch a glimpse of what was happening. Children screamed as they rushed to safety in their mother’s arms. Even the choir went dead quite. Catching everyone by surprise, Rabao rocked up atop his “Hamba Double Frame” bicycle. The wedding had begun! Hours later, the choir was singing its last song. It was a simple song but one loaded with a clear message. It was always the last song to be sung in our weddings. It was a song calling all girls to come and make sure that they have seen the wedding couple! This song, it was whispered, was aimed at the single ladies. They were implored to come make sure they have seen the husband and yes they were being asked to then stay away from him as he settled with his new wife! ‘Banyana re itseeleng sure x3’… The choreography that went with this song can never be aptly captured by words. It is a complicated but well-rehearsed dance that has been part of the family tradition for ages. It is a sacred dance performed by a special choir made of the best dancers from “motthepha” ward. The rest of the villagers normally just watch in spellbound awe!