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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”.
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.
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.
… 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.
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.
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.
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.