Labola or The Bride Price

My brother Steve and I were on our way to pay labola or the “bride price”. Like many people I had never heard of labola. Steve had some knowledge of it but was unsure how to negotiate the paying of this labola to his bride’s family. Thus, my reason for being in the car on the way to Growth Corner Zimbabwe.

When we arrived at the bride’s home village, we were not to enter the gate until invited, and an invitation would not be granted without payment. Payment made we entered the gate and were introduced briefly to the bride’s mother and father, then taken to the hut to wait for the list.

Uncle Medena came into our hut with the list. First on the list was money for the cloth that the mother used to cover her belly when she was pregnant with Cresensia. Also listed was a charge that if paid would stop the bride’s family from ever talking about anything Steve may have done wrong in the past. Also included were new clothes for the father and mother—dress, suit, and shoes for both of them. A cow for the mother and four head of cattle for the father were big items on the “want” list.

Now it was time to negotiate, we started by mentioning how we honored their traditions and that we would like them to also have some understanding of ours. We explained that in our homeland it was traditional for the bride’s family to pay for the wedding, we went into detail about our traditions., We were doing a great job of negotiating! We were leaving nothing out as we jabbed, ducked, and danced around all of the items and the uncle’s pleadings. He then went back to the kitchen rondavo to present our arguments to the mother and father.

Again we waited. Uncle Modena came back into our hut. WITH THE SAME EXACT LIST! Steve and I were a bit confused by this but we continued our skilled negotiations. As the time passed and nothing changed, I looked the uncle straight in the eyes and asked him if this was truly negotiation or was this list the list we would end up agreeing to. He smiled and said, no, this is not a negotiation; this is what the family expects. I smiled and told Uncle Modena, that my brother could easily afford their “want” list. We all laughed and he went back to the family to tell of the success of the labola negotiations. He then said we were now a part of the family and that when we left the hut; we could hug, kiss and dance with the family.

The drums started a strong happy beat, and the ladies were singing and the men were dancing. The bride’s brothers were skinning a goat for the wedding feast.

It was a magical three days.

Journal Comments

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