The culture that our Christianity trashed


DURING the 2008 food crisis, to ‘arrest’ my nhomba (having gone for several weeks without tasting meat), we arranged with several colleagues to buy and slaughter a beast for sharing in our ‘beef committee’.
A colleague from kwaChirau made arrangements for this juicy transaction.
We travelled to his village and had a reasonable barter deal which saw us exchanging a few bags of maize meal for a medium sized old cow.
By nightfall all processes had been completed.
We took the carcass to a butchery at Masiyarwa Business Centre, for machine cutting.
As soon as his cutting machine sounded, a truck load of police officers arrived. They demanded to see our stock purchase papers and satisfied they turned their fury on the butcher for defying the maxim, ‘mombe haichekwi usiku’ (you don’t cut beef carcasses at night).
Eventually we bartered our freedom and were left to complete the cutting exercise.
On the way back to Harare, with our ‘loot’, we laughed hilariously over the ‘mombe haichekwi usiku’ maxim and the subsequent escape.
We drew parallels with other taboos from childhood.
‘Munhu haaroorwe usiku, munhu haavigwe usiku’ are taboos against night burials and night marriages.
We grew up on such counsel and never stopped to question the logic.
Recently I attended my third ever night wedding and found myself recalling the childhood taboos as well as the Masiyarwa incident.
Marriage and burial are supposed to be transparent processes to be carried out in broad daylight and in the presence of witnesses.
And in these days of stock thefts it makes sense to outlaw night cutting of beef carcasses.
Night provides cover for evil and criminal practices.
Marriage, burial and meat cutting are scheduled by the living.
A man of God presided over this Farai naFarisai ceremony.
I had lesser issues with the timing than the man of God’s jibes directed at Shona culture.
First he asked the parents of the bride and bridegroom to give their final blessings to their children.
Specifically he said the blessings had to be biblical and should not include chinu, chuma, mapfumo or tsvimbo.
After this, the marriage officer then explained that in his ceremony the bride ‘arikuroora’ the groom who in turn ‘arikuroora’ the bride.
The man of God was not done.
He then asked the bride to publicly bid farewell, kuwoneka, to her parents after which the bridegroom was asked to do the same.
The bridegroom timidly complied and I wondered, “Museyamwa murikurasika papi?”
A hundred years ago, before our culture gave way to Christianity, Farai naFarisai would have married quite differently.
Farai’s successful courtship would have been sealed with the act of ‘kupana nhumbi’, exchanges of part of their clothing.
That done, Farai would have advised his father of intention to marry (kuroora). Farai’s father would in turn send a Munyai/Dombo with a hoe and chuma (bead necklace) to Farisai’s parents.
Here Farisai’s tete, after presiding over confirmations of the affair, would give the hoe and chuma to Farisai.
Farisai would wear the chuma and give the hoe to her father.
This ceremony was called ‘Kutambira Rutsambo’.
It was modest and symbolic.
Once the rutsambo was accepted, Farai’s family then arranged for him to go ‘Kunoridza Gusvi’ to his mother-in-law, Ambuya.
He was accompanied by his father, munyai and other male relations.
They took with them bundles of neatly cut and de-barked firewood.
After protocols to enter the homestead were observed they would place the firewood bundles next to the doorway of Farisai’s mother’s kitchen.
After kuisa gusvi, three loud bursts of group clapping, they retreated to tete’s hut from where they feasted.
The ceremony symbolised eternal gratefulness to Farisayi’s mother by Farai.
It also, through the firewood bundles, served as a warning to other suitors that Farisai was taken.
The party would return leaving behind Farai who had to work for his father-in-law for at least 10 days.
The work usually involved fencing off gardens/fields with shrubs.
When he was done with erecting these enclosures his male relations then organised a nhimbe during which they provided digging service in the fenced gardens.
The working party got to business well before mother-in-law rose.
Upon seeing them she would yell “Makororo!”
And the nhimbe would have started in earnest.
Farai’s nhimbe party would depart at sunset leaving him at his in laws’ for a few more days.
The purpose of Farai’s stay and the nhimbe was for Farai to extend his gratefulness to his father-in-law.
It also gave him opportunity to bond with Farisai’s family.
Farai eventually returned to his village with his bride.
Farisai was pampered by Farai’s relations.
She revelled in kushonongora acts at every turn during her stay.
Farisai would stay at Farai’s for four days before being accompanied back by Farai’s female relations.
This visit afforded Farisai opportunity to bond with her in-laws.
If neither Farai nor Farisai voiced objections to the ongoing marriage, Farisai’s tete would then go to Farai’s people to arrange for payment of danga, lobola herd of cattle.
The munyai would show her the danga and arrange for delivery of same to Farisai’s people.
Receipt of danga by Farisai’s people was immediately followed by the kuperekwa, official handover of Farisai to Farai, ceremony.
Farisai was accompanied by her female relations who carried with them baskets of meal.
On arrival, a goat was slaughtered for them.
They cooked and served half of the goat.
The other half and the goat skin, dehwe, they took back home as chirango to Farai’s Ambuya.
A few days after consummation of the marriage, Farai and Farisai would return, with a goat, to Farisai’s parents.
Farisai’s waist cloth would be placed by the doorway and her parents would jump over it.
This was meant to prevent ‘kutyorwa musana’ (back injury) to the parents.
The goat would be killed and part of it would be cooked with herbs for consumption by Farai, Farisai and her parents.
This dish was called ‘Matyorwa’.
When Farisai fell pregnant, arrangements were then made for the Masungiro ceremony.
This usually consisted of Farai delivering a hoe for his father-in-law and two goats for his mother-in-law.
The goats were usually left to multiply and became ambuya’s property.
Now, back to the man of God; where is evil in all the above?


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