Thursday, July 7, 2016


Yesterday I had the wonderful privledge of being invited to a Matabetu ceremony.


A Matabetu ceremony!

the bride NeNe
Its a ceremony for a bride to be where she learns all about cooking for her husband.  It is a HUGE deal.  I might venture to say it is a bigger deal than the wedding itself.  Women from both sides of the family gather at the home where the bride was raised and they spend all night cooking every dish known in the culture.  Then all the food is taken to the home of the groom where he then eats what he loves so that the bride will know what to prepare for her husband.

here she is making Nshima
Nene (the bride) was glowing and radiant and looked upon the rituals she had to conduct with pride and diginity. I witnessed a ceremony where the mother and grandmother taught her how to start a fire and cook nshima (the local staple)

All was accompanied with laughter, singing and drums.  The joy that was in the air yesterday was contagious.   I even participated in dancing to the great amusement of all present.  Shouts of MUZUNGU!!!!!  (go white lady go!)

But it wasn't the anticipation of Nene's new life with her husband that struck a chord with me.  It was the camaraderie I witnessed among these women.  The singleness of purpose and the joy these ladies had in preparing for the big day was one that took my breath away.

NeNe is learning how to make fire
I felt as if I had gained entrance into a special secret society and the women I sat with were more than happy to share with me what few others get to experience.  I heard about the special significance of certain foods and many were simply over joyed to show me the food they prepared.   Zambian women look upon the job of cooking with such pride.  It is what marks them as women.  If you can cook and do it well then you are a woman of substance and value.  If you can't cook then don't bother even looking at a man.

She is cooking Mopani worms.  
In that back yard all the cares of life were gone.  All the worries about school fees, jobs, children and crazy husbands were pushed to the back of everyone's minds for a few short hours and they enjoyed life.  Zambian women have little reason to smile.  Many suffer abuse in a society that looks down upon women.  They don't have rights according to the law.  Many are stuck in horrible marriages and have to suffer indignities that are unmentionable.  Many of their children die young from preventable disease and most suffer with alcholism.  Zambia women rank 5th in the world for alcohol consumption.  OUCH!   I see women every day carrying impossible loads on their backs with several children trailing along.  The look on their faces is one of exhaustion and determination.     So, the way I see it a Matebetu ceremony isn't just about the bride.  It is a time when ladies who work so hard, who strive so hard and long to kick back, relax and enjoy.  Women here can laugh!  They know how to work hard and play hard, thats for sure!

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