It’s the early hours of the morning. We are deep in the Eastern Cape Province discovering how cold it can actually get there at night. Although we’re wrapped up tight, the cold surreptitiously coaxed its way through our tightly woven blankets and mercilessly punches us. Curled up in a ball, the rustling sound of a body catches my attention. I awake to hear my cousin whisper, “Psst…Thanks for making me go back into the house to fetch a blanket.” I hear this and chuckle inwardly. Loathe to move and lose my warm spot by laughing out loud, I make a mental note to have a good laugh at him in morning. We were actually warned about how cold it was but we thought “It’s early December, how cold could it possibly be, right?
Weddings in our family always involve a road trip at some point. Our family is born and bred in South Africa’s cultural melting pot of Johannesburg. So no one seems to ever be dating a fellow home-grown Joburger. So, family weddings have taken us to Tzaneen, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Lesotho and now Mhlanga.
Mhlanga is a village outside the small town of Dordrecht in the Eastern Cape Province. The village is about 30 minutes from the town if you are in a 4×4 and go the right way. It’s about three hours if you’re on a bus and your local “guide” gets confused. We weren’t mad at the guide though, in fairness to him we only started questioning his sense of direction after about two hours, thanks to the distraction of our entourage of aunts on the bus (some of whom “turned up” for the occasion).
Although the weather was chilly, the clouds parted often enough to showcase the rolling hills surrounding the village. The rural beauty raised our spirits and warmed us up to first, sing the wedding songs we just spent 5 hours practicing (erm…some of us learning) and second, begin the process of escorting the gorgeous bride to the groom’s family house. This involved a short walk down the hill to a stunningly decorated marquee where the festivities would be held. But not before two horsemen came galloping in the courtyard to provide an extra escort (or maybe make sure we’d bring our bride) and engulfing our somewhat tipsy aunt in a storm of dust. Tipsy or not she tapped danced out of there and took a bow. No intimidation here…we came to celebrate.
This for me is the part about traditional South African weddings that I love. The dance of contemplation between the uncles; the requisite fanfare on both sides; the joining of generations, cultures and modernity; the vibrant colours; and of course dancing and singing in celebration ALL DAY LONG!
Well worth the distance traveled. Can’t wait for the next one.