Embo!

It was a swelteringly hot day in East London yesterday. The School Communicator popped up on my computer screen at mid-day. An alarming red notice said that after-school sport was cancelled owing to the heat.

Thabisa’s mother phoned in the evening. Apparently it was unbearable in Mthatha and everyone was looking forward to the rain that would break the heatwave, but then ominous storm clouds gathered. “My mom said that it looked really bad,” Thabs reported. “They even had to go out and shout embo”.

Pause.

Thabs takes a breath and explains. “When very bad weather threatens, everyone goes out of their houses and waves a plate at the sky and shouts EEEEMMMMMBBBOHHH. It means ‘go far away’. EEEEMMMMMBBBOHHH! apho kulalwa ngengubo enye. Go far away! to where people only sleep with one blanket.”

“Where’s that?” I ask.

“No-one knows.”

I clearly look sceptical.

“It works! It really does, Gail. The rain goes away. Or, if it was going to be bad, it is just a gentle rain.”

A moment’s reflection.

“But it doesn’t work for tornadoes. There is nothing you can do about a tornado.”

There. Now you know something you didn’t know yesterday.

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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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