Tuesday, June 22, 2010


A few weeks back, Sarah and I were planning to go and deliver the backpacks to the kids in Kabanana.
We had set up a meeting place to drop them off with the Chirwas. They were at someone's home having a celebration, or party. It was Fanny's brother and the event was called "Atembeto"
When I have asked what that word means it doesn't seem like there is a clear translation, but basically a welcoming to the family. We were invited to stop by and come in for a minute. We were curious as to what was going on anyway and certainly did not want to be rude. So we were welcomed in and given a place to sit.

The ceremeony is a welcome from the brides family to the groom and his family.
It can be done during the engagement or after the wedding. In this case it was before the wedding.

The bride's family prepares every kind of dish that they cook as their family and bring that to the groom and present it. The ceremony is very elaborate with the women walking into the room with the pots on their head. Then their are drummers and dancing and people throwing money onto the floor around where all the pots are placed.
The groom sat on the couch with the "mediator" ( as I mentioned in the white plate and milk blog post) next to him and another family member on the other side. The job of this mediator, was to explain the customs and traditions and what he can expect from his new wife.

The pots of food are carried into the room where the groom and all his family is seated. They then place the pots on the ground in front of him and people are supposed to throw money out. In the corner there were 3 women beating on drums and singing also. Throughout the whole time the mediator was whispering to the groom different things. Explaining everything.
I told Fanny that I needed to be sitting on the other side so I could have understood everything too!
Quite interesting though.

So the women are placing their food down and different ones are supposed to dance. Then it gets quiet and 2 older women, they seemed to be the representatives of the family, start to organize the pots and then place their hands behind their back and the two of them start opening a special pot that has been wrapped in a white cloth. They opened it with their teeth, all the while people are cheering and the drums are beating.
They managed to do it and more cheers came from the people.

Then the woman started some of the other things in the ceremony. Washing the grooms hands and then his face. Shining his shoes and then laying at his feet. All things that were showing the respect that the wife was going to give him.

Then the older woman threw a chitenge over her head and the grooms head and the mediators. I really had no idea what that was about. I think something symbolizing that even when others are around that the husband and wife are still to be romantic. Very interesting since culturally the husband and wife show now signs of affection even holding hands, etc in public. SO it must be referring to in the home even though various different relatives live with them.
I was told that a couple has one year to be alone after which they are expected to be having various family members living in their house with them. And it should be equally distributes one from the husbands side and then the wifes side…

The women then started showing each individual pot of food to the man to explain what it was. The types of food he should expect to see served to him from his wife. Pumpkin seeds were one of the items as well as a few other similar things and that was to symbolize that even when times are lean and there is not much food in the house these are the types of things the wife will cook.

After everything was shown then it was time to eat. All the food was taken to the table and the bride's family left, they do not eat with the grooms family. The grooms family were served drinks and then we went through the line to get the food.

We certainly did not intend to stay very long, but we ended up staying quite awhile and then getting a "take-away" container with a little food. It was very interesting to watch.

I am glad I was able to go and see this part of the Bemba tribal culture. There were two things that I found to be most interesting. The first was that the groom did not even crack a smile the whole entire time. Even when the mediator borrowed a chitenge tied it around his waist and started dancing!
The other was that the bride was not there. She was at home, and not supposed to be there.

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