While in Namibia, I've been very fortunate in my social agenda. I've only been here for three months, but I've already been to three weddings. That's a wedding a month! They have been a lot of fun and for one of them I was even fortunate enough to have a beautiful date. I've also been lucky enough that each one has been of a different culture. I've turned it into a check list! The first one was Baster, the second was Nama, and the last one was Damara. (The first two were in a town setting, during training in Okahandja, the last one was at my site in Kamanjab.) There are three left: Herero, Caprivian and Ovambo. The two challenging ones will be Caprivian and Ovambo. There are almost no Ovamboes that live in Kamanjab as they are more near Angola, and Caprivians live in the “Caprivi Strip” near Zambia and Zimbabwe.
At first I was rather disappointed because the weddings were very western, but as I thought about it, it is a western tradition so of course it will be western. But they did have their subtleties that made them unique. I'm sure it also doesn't help that Bravo and other fashion media is out here, even in my tiny village.
Baster culture is located around Okahandja and south, especially in Rehoboth. They are the decendents of white settlers who had children with Namibians. The ceremony was done in Afrikaans and was quite western. After the ceremony, everyone followed the bride and groom in their cars and drove around the town, honking their horns while swerving in the road. They traveled the whole town to get to the reception. This wedding was unique in the music and dancing. There is a style of music and dance that just can't be described. Everyone danced with everyone and no one left with any energy.
Nama people live in southern Namibia and even into parts of South Africa. They speak the same language as Damara, which has clicks incorperated into the language. (It's also a spoken language and wasn't really ment to be written) It started two hours late, late even by “African time,” but people waited like it was no big deal. This ceremony was also quite western and was done in Afrikaans. The actual ceremony had more singing and live music incorperated into the ceremony. Together, they lit a candle. This reception had a lot of good food and people. A lot of meat. The speaches were rather long, but they were really personable and funny. I actually don't know if they were, but everyone was laughing. The music was also really fun.
Because this was at my site in Kamanjab, I was able to be a part of the whole process. It started off the night before the eve of the wedding, there were two separate parties at the respective houses. One for the Bride and one for the Groom. The parties continued all night into the day which was the day before the wedding. At sunrise, many people met at the Groom's house and joined the party. They would wave white flags and olive branches while cheering in a very unique way. Together, everyone walked a bull to the Bride's house. Thankfully the house was close and the horns were taken care of. It took 7 people to control the bull and even then it almost got away several times. Once at the Bride's house, the Groom's party mingled with the Bride's party and there was cheering. The Bride was then ushered into the house by the older women who were waving and smacking the olive branches and flags at her. She was not to leave the house until the following day to go to her wedding ceremony. The bull, and a goat, was slaughtered and the Groom had to process the carcasses. I'm told the bull testicles were saved and was a saved for the Bride and Groom as a symbol of fertility and prosperity. The following morning was the wedding ceremony. I was unable to attend it, but I am told that it is quite western and similar to the others. I don't know which language it was in. Later that afternoon was the reception. It was held at a community centre. All of the guests came first and ushered in the wedding party. Each danced with their counterpart (Groom's man with Bride's Maid) into the room to the front of the room. Then came prayers, toasts and speeches. There were a Lot of speeches, but thankfully they were all really short, and funny. Once again I couldn't understand them, but everyone was laughing. They even had me address everyone to introduce myself to Kamanjab! It was very nerve racking. After was food, drinking and dancing.
Each of the weddings also had their little subleties that i'm sure I wasn't able to pick up on. These are just the ones I observed and I hope I was able to correctly report them. One thing I can say is that each one had a really beautiful couple who were really graceous to invite me, a complete stranger, to the happiest day of their life.