Xhosa mother (left) and her daughter/bride from south Africa

Xhosa mother (left) and her daughter/bride from south Africa on their way to the umzi (hut) of her husband`s people.

Johannesburg, Xhosa Bride

Johannesburg, Xhosa Bride

Umakoti (Daughter in-law/wife)
A bride has to show respect towards her husband's family. The first virtue demanded of a bride is that she should be hardworking, respectful and eager. She must care for her husband's comfort and that of his family particularly the parents in law. Part of her responsibilities include fetching the wood, water and wild spinach from distant places. She also takes care of the home garden and of course the cooking.

Customary law requires that a bride must show respect towards all senior relatives of her husband, particularly his male relatives.
The bride must never go near the cattle kraal in which her husbands father or grandfather are buried or where the ancestors of the family are believed to reign. However, if she opens her own homestead with her husband, she may go near the kraal of that homestead; she is only forbidden to go to that of the senior homestead. She must avoid the inkundla (courtyard between huts and kraal) in which men sit. When entering a hut of a senior relative of her husband, male and female, she must turn sharply to left ad circle around the back so as to avoid the men's side (Ukuceza). A daughter-in-law disdains her husband's umzi if she does not avoid every place bout where her fathers sit.

The avoidance of the right of huts, the inkundla, and the cattle kraal is extended to those imizi (homesteads) of her husband's seniors into which a woman might have married. In her husband's mother's hut a bride is expected to take a retired position. She may approach the hearth to mend the fire or see to the pots, but cannot sit up to the fire. A bride avoids the name, and words, of which a principal syllable is similar to the principle syllable of the name of her husband's father, his brothers, her husband's elder brothers, and his father's father, whether they are living or dead. She also avoids personal names of her husband's mother, paternal aunts, and elder sisters, but does not avoid words similar to them. When she arrives, she is told (by her husband's sister, or an elder co-wifey) what words are avoided in the homestead. So long as she lives in her mother-in-law's homestead, a wife, no matter how long she has been married, is responsible to her other-in-law, even more than her husband. If she want to visit her homestead, the wife must get permission from her mother in law and then she can tell her husband that his mother has given her permission to go visit with her people. Impoliteness to her mother-in-law may result in a bride being sent back to her people. Nevertheless, a mother-in-law is expected to be "Bush shelter" to her daughter-in-law against her husband. If a husband beats up his wife, she run to her mother-in-law to seek refuge there, and the son, because he respects his mother, will not pursue her there.

BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah

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