Mutimba defines VaRemba

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COLONIALISM contributed to the decline of numerous cultural practices among Africans especially as people were forcibly removed from their ancestral homes.
The breaking up of families and in some cases whole tribes by the colonial authorities led to fragmentation which resulted in people finding it difficult to observe and follow important cultural practices.
However, one group of people, the VaRemba, have religiously stuck to their customs.
As much as they have been influenced by Western culture, they still maintain their age old practices that define them as a VaRemba.
The VaRemba, also known as the ‘Black Jews’, are mostly found in Mberengwa.
Among many practices that have been observed for centuries is the initiation of boys into manhood through among other things circumcision.
But last week The Patriot got to witness one of the most fascinating practices, a VaRemba wedding ceremony, in the mining town of Kwekwe.
The wedding ceremony, traditionally known as Mutimba, celebrated the union of Tichaona Zhou and Kudzai Chali from Masvingo.
Before a Remba takes home his fiancé as a wife, a beautiful and elaborate wedding ceremony takes place.
It is as colourful and fun filled as any wedding ceremony.
Unlike some forms of modern wedding ceremonies that excludes some important people, a Mutimba is an all-inclusive ceremony.
For example, some modern day ceremonies only require the couple to show up with two witnesses, which you may not know.
But a Mutimba is done in the presence of both the parents of the bride and groom, relatives, friends and neighbours.
Although it used to be discouraged, the VaRemba now intermarry.
A non-Remba in a union is referred to as Vashenje.
After Tichaona paid lobola to the Chalis, the groom asked for permission to hold a Mutimba.
The permission was granted signifying that the in-laws were satisfied with the bride price that was paid by the people of the young man.
The most interesting aspects of the Mutimba are the processes preceding the final merrymaking, eating and dancing.
Last week the Mutimba was held at the Zhou homestead.
But before receiving the bride, the Zhou family had to carry out a process called kutara, whereby they visited the Chalis and presented homemade mealie-meal (mudzvurwa) and a live chicken (roadrunner).
By receiving the goods brought by the Zhou family, the Chalis indicated that they were ready to release their daughter to her new family.
After the process, the date for Mutimba is set.
There are no hard and fast rules with regard to where the Mutimba is held, it can be hosted at either the bride or groom’s home.
In this case the groom’s family hosted the Mutimba.
The bride arrived the day before the ceremony just as the sun set accompanied by her aunt and sisters.
And they did not just walk into the homestead.
The bride, as per tradition, had her face covered with a white cloth and patiently waited at the entrance of the homestead.
Tokens were paid for the bride to begin her entry into the homestead.
Step by step tokens were paid in the form of money.
And her journey into her new home ended in her mother-in-law’s thatched kitchen, the round hut.
More tokens must be paid for the bride to remove the cloth covering her.
When the aunt of the bride is satisfied with tokens presented, which are usually in the form of money, the bride is unveiled.
All the while, before the cloth is removed, the bride is good naturedly mocked.
On being uncovered, people ululate and celebrate and the bride greets her in-laws.
On the day of arrival the bride does not share the bedroom with the groom, but before retiring to bed, the celebrations begin in the form of singing and dancing.
Traditional music accompanied by drums and shakers is played till the wee hours.
The feasting commences with traditional brew and meat as well as other foods presented.
In the morning the bride wakes up early to sweep the homestead yard and more tokens are presented to the bride in appreciation of the work.
After sweeping, she goes to give every member of the family water to bath while more tokens of appreciation are paid.
After serving everyone, the bride then prepares to be presented to more people, in the company of the groom.
When all the guests are gathered the couple is escorted by bridesmaids, usually the sisters of the bride, arrive dancing.
On taking their seats, formal introductions are made.
Both parties are introduced with musical interludes in-between.
Traditional dancers entertain the guests.
The introductions are followed by speeches made by both the parents of the bride and groom.
The most important part of Mutimba is when the two families exchange food.
The two families prepare traditional dishes which they exchange.
In Kwekwe, sadza remudzvurwa, rupiza, mupunga une dovi, huku and sadza rerukweza were the dishes the families shared.
The food which is consumed by the relatives of the bride and bridegroom signify that the families accept the new relationship.
While eating, friends and relatives take that opportunity to offer presents to the new couple.
Once that is done, the official function nears end.
The two, Tichaona and Kudzai were given an opportunity to explain how their relationship began and give votes of thanks.
At the end of the function, the director of ceremonies announces the gifts given the couple.
The guests then congratulate the couple while music is played and the merrymaking and eating continues into the night.
The groom’s family then seeks permission from the bride’s aunt for him to take her into the bedroom.
Permission is granted after another token has been paid.
Since Kudzai is a non-Remba, it was the role of the groom’s aunties to teach her the Remba values.
For example, one of the important customs is that VaRemba do not eat ‘nyamafu’, that meat that has not been slaughtered by a Remba.
As VaRemba do not consume pork products, it was emphasised to her that pots used to prepare pork should not be used to cook any dish for Remba visitors.
Tichaona and Kudzai Zhou had a most fascinating wedding.
Mutimba is indeed unique.

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