That wedding…

… caused some serious confusion. It wasn’t Thabisa and I that were getting married, it was Milisa and Nonelelo. Re-reading my last post I see that it was a bit ambiguous. Sorry! 🙂

Here are the pics from the traditional part.

I should explain that the church wedding was in King William’s Town on the Saturday morning, and the reception was on Saturday afternoon. There was very little going on on Saturday night while further discussions between the two families took place. We went to the bride’s family’s home on the Saturday night, and were crammed into a small room to wait for the bride to come home. At about 8.30 we were told that she might only arrive after midnight. We baled – drove an hour to the groom’s home in a small village near Debe Nek. We expected that there would be some kind of celebration going on, but there wasn’t. Our small party of six sat in a bedroom, had a few beers and chatted amongst ourselves. We eventually found places to crash (three in a bed, the rest on the floor) and turned in. I was amazed by the calmness the next morning. Everyone seemed to know what to do. We were brought oats for breakfast. A team of women swung into catering action and another team decorated the marquee. Then we waited for the bride and groom to arrive. They did eventually – she in the white dress she had worn the day before. Everyone sat outside, next to the kraal, in the blazing midday sun, for what felt like hours, while a preacher preached. Then we moved into the marquee. The bride and groom got changed into traditional dress. Her outfit was really, really beautiful. Thabs had the camera at that stage, and she didn’t think to get a pic of the back of her dress, which was just lovely.

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There was no hymn sheet

The congregation decided what to sing, and when to sing it.

Here is the clip you have been waiting for from last Saturday’s wedding…

 

Terribly low res, but you get the idea.

 

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We caused a stir

I have never been more photographed in my life! The general consensus, in spite of my reservations about white people in Xhosa traditional dress, was that it worked.  The eyebrow pencil instead of calamine for the face painting was a bit of a fail – it smudged and needed touching up all the time (thanks for your patience, Cebisa).

I really resisted the notion of Thabisa in men’s clothes, and me in women’s (you know… the boring “who is the man?” question), but in the end it is how it worked out.

Thabisa and Gail in traditional dress.

Thabisa and Gail in traditional dress.

She looked fab. I must prefer the men's clothing - nice lines.

She looked fab. I must prefer the men’s clothing – nice lines.

Detail of the ibhayi bought in the street in King William's Town - beautiful beadwork.

Detail of the ibhayi bought in the street in King William’s Town – beautiful beadwork.

Beaded bracelet and stick (intonga eraselweyo)

Beaded bracelet and stick (intonga eraselweyo)

The head-dress, called iqhiya, is surprisingly comfy.

The head-dress, called iqhiya, is surprisingly comfy.

In the thick of things, welcoming the makhoti to the groom's homestead

In the thick of things, welcoming the makhoti to the groom’s homestead

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Cellphones and ceremony: a wedding

The Eastern Cape LGBTI Organisation marched down Oxford Street on 10 August. It was a small, but vibrant group of people, carrying placards, singing protests songs.  As usual, I took pictures. But I really struggled this time. There were almost as many people ahead of the main banner, walking quickly backwards with their arms outstreached, taking photographs, as there were behind the banner doing the marching. I got really annoyed. It was difficult to get a shot of the marchers because the cellphone shooters were in the way.  “Are you here to march, or to take pictures of the march?” I caught myself muttering before I got the irony… I am ALWAYS taking pictures.

Thabs and I attended a wedding on Saturday. I quickly realised that I was going to have the same problem. This time I decided to go with the flow and photograph the photographers.  Here they are. The narrative is in the captions.

Urgent calls to make while we wait (an hour and a half) for the bride.

Urgent calls to make while we wait (an hour and a half) for the bride.

The bridesmaids arrive. Notice that the cellphone is colour-coordinated.

The bridesmaids arrive. Notice that the cellphone is colour-coordinated.

A new salute... as the bride enters the church all arms are extended in an attempt to get a post-able picture.

A new salute… as the bride enters the church all arms are extended in an attempt to get a post-able picture.

My first glimpse of the bride is via someone else's iPad.

My first glimpse of the bride is via someone else’s iPad.

Shoot and post... shoot and post...

Shoot and post… shoot and post…

Filming is now called "videorising" and everyone does it (I am guilty too - had to get a clip of Thabs ululuting - watch this space!)

Filming is now called “videorising” and everyone does it (I am guilty too – had to get a clip of Thabs ululuting – watch this space!)

Last one...

Last one…

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Commemorating the Centenary of the 1913 Natives’ Land Act

Upper Gxulu, near Keiskammahoek, Eastern Cape
5 June 2013

Dogs waiting for the sun Early-morning mechanic Yoyo's Tavern child Upper Gxulu, near Keiskammahoek, Eastern Cape Bonani Loliwe of Border Rural Committee
The Mayibuye iAfrica! Caravan arrives... (Zipho Xego and Yandia Gebe) Tshintsha Amakhaya activists lead the children in song Still fresh after 5 days on the road Serious child Gxulu childZipho Xego of the Transkei Land Service Organisation

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I am in Johannesburg

It is different here.
I quite like it.

It is a warm, still, Saturday afternoon in Troyeville.

My friend Pervaiz is cooking up a storm. He was born in a village in Pakistan – the spicy smells wafting down the passage are a nod to his roots.

His partner, Phillippa, has just bounced up to me and said, “You are so opinionated but I love you!” and kissed me on the cheek.

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On marriage

I have been thinking about marriage a lot lately.
Not about getting married, but about the institution itself.

I was chatting this week to my old high school friend, Heidi. She blames me (tongue-in-cheek, but still) for the fact that she struggled to commit for longer than most. Apparently my clearly articulated feminism and rejection of “the house with the picket fence” was a huge influence on her in our teenage years. She was thirty-eight or so when she finally got married. “And then, Gail, you went and got married at 21 and settled down and everything!” (<- outraged tone).

Yes, but it isn’t as simple as that. Too long a story for now.

I have a close friend who separated from her husband for a couple of months earlier this year. She was describing to me the joy expressed by almost everyone that they are now living together again. Society wants us in couples, and wants couples to be married. Is it only because “it is best for the children”? I don’t think so.

Her experience mirrored mine – my close friends and family really struggled when my ex-husband and I publicly split up – even though they knew that the ‘marriage’ was non-existent (I been in a closeted relationship with my previous girlfriend for four years) – they wanted the façade of a marriage to continue. “Why couldn’t you just carry on the way you were, and have relationships on the side like we all do?” someone asked. I am not going to tell you who.

Because I am not comfortable with that. I need to be honest to the world about who I am and who I am with.

I am not afraid of commitment. Part of me would very much like to be married. Part of me wonders why. Why sign an off-the-shelf contract of marriage? Why have a public ceremony in which one pledges fidelity? Why are the whispered promises in the privacy of our own home not enough?

When she was in hospital recently, I wished I could introduce myself to Thabisa’s surgeon as her wife, rather than as her girlfriend – girlfriend sounds so feeble – temporary. Our relationship is way more than that. But isn’t it enough for us to know? Why does it matter to us that other people know? I don’t know, but it does. Particularly for us – where people often assume that Thabisa is my employee. A typical scene… I am at the pharmacy, having a script filled for Thabisa. (She is on my medical aid). The pharmacist looks fascinated. “Is she your maid?”

One thing related to marriage that I absolutely detest is the notion of a proposal. For me it is the most stark reminder of the inequality of the sexes. Women, certain of what they want, wait patiently for their partners to “pop the question”.  The inequality has filtered through to same-sex relationships in a way that makes me feel very uncomfortable.

A friend posted this flash mob gay proposal on her facebook page a little while back. She thought it was lovely.  I thought it was excruciating.  Not only the public spectacle of a very private moment. But…the end bit…

Bennie says, “of COURSE I will!”

If the proposee was so certain that he was ready to get married, why hadn’t HE proposed? You know why, don’t you?

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