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Marital Union Undefined.....

News came from abroad that Andile had married a man
His father beat his chest in anger
And his mother threw herself on the floor wailing
While the neighbours came to sympathize
At the agony of the neighbour’s son who had gone
To the land of the white man and married a man

When Busi came of age
A family came from the next village
To marry her for their son Bheka who lived in the city
The last time we had seen Bheka was when he was a boy
Her parents agreed, her bride price was paid
There was a big ceremony, in which Busi
Dressed beautifully and received gifts
Her groom was not present at either the proposal
Nor the wedding ceremony because he was too busy working
And his brother had to stand in his place
But everyone called her Bheka’s wife
And when it was time for her to leave
She was put on a bus and accompanied
To the city by her new in laws to begin her new life as a wife

Maybe Aisha’s was better
At least the groom was seen
But he was as old as her grandfather
And she was still very young
She sat trembling as the marital vows were made
In Ehi’s case the bride was old enough to be his mother
And guests gossiped that she has been his sugar mummy
And claimed he was marrying her for her wealth
But he seemed happy and the sugar mummy
Didn’t seem to mind

Zi’s was different,
In her case, the only son of a great family had died
Without an heir
And his family had married Zi to his spirit
So she could produce children
Who would carry on the family name
But we all knew she would be impregnated by other men
Or could spirits carry out their conjugal rights?

Old Chioma had been married for many years
Without giving her husband any children
When she hit menopause still childless,
She had married a younger woman
She called her wife, who would bear
Her husband children
Shouldn’t the young wife have been addressed
As the husband’s new wife if she was going to give him children?
No, she was Chioma’s wife because Chioma had married her

Last Saturday,
Lunga had taken Lindiwe to the altar
And made her his wife
And the priest had read from the Holy book
And explained, man and woman become one
Forever and ever
How could this be?
When he was also at the ceremony
Where our chief had chosen his fifth wife
And we had all eaten and drank to the wishes
Of a happy marriage and many children
For the couple
How could he say forever?
When Teslimat has been divorced and married three times?
And is still regarded as a married woman to her new husband
Same as old Omo who has been married to the same man
Before my parents were born
Least I forget, the priest had no wife,
I was told he was married to God
Just like Sister Margaret

Also there is Rhoda the Lawyer,
Who has been living with Baraka in the city,
The women gossip that she is an immoral woman
Because she not only lives with a man who is not her husband
But also has children for a man who has paid no bride price
Yet everyone acknowledges the fact that they live together
And whenever she visits, both grandmothers
Struggle to spend time with their grandchildren
Since they disapprove so much of their children’s cohabitation
Why not deny the fact that the grandchildren
Are theirs?

And just the other day
My mother said to me that I have come of age
That soon it would be my turn to get married
But I am confused as to what marriage really is
As I do not understand Marital union and its intricacies,

Since Andile married a man like himself,
And Busi is still regarded as Bekha’s wife even though it was his brother
Who stood in as the groom at the wedding
While young Aisha is married to a man her grandfather’s age
And Ehi to a woman old enough to be his mother
With Zi married to a spirit and old Chioma married to a younger woman
Lunga and Lindiwe are married too
And so are the priest and Sister Margaret.
And the chief is also married to his five wives
With Teslimat changing husbands and Omo still married to the same man
While Rhoda’s bride price has still not been paid

For now I can not explain or understand
What my fate or marital union would be like
As all these are unions in their own rites
Who or what would I end up with?
Will my bride price be paid?
Will my union be temporary or forever?
Maybe I shall stand alone and wed myself
Or something more interesting might happen
Before then to determine the type of union
I would have,
As marital union still remains undefined to me
Except to say, it has to do with the coming together
Of one or more individuals
With either their consent, or that of their parents or the society

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