Manhood in Africa, and I’m certain about the African part, traditionally, has been marked in a very different way to what the westerners mark it, at least I think. A man in Africa is seen by what he does having entered manhood. Moreover, a man in Africa, is one who has entered the institution of marriage which is a prestigious achievement in the African culture.
To get into the marriage institution, an entire process is required which has in it protocols that many have an idea of. For the modern young man grown out of diluted culture from globalization it is a tedious process which however has it’s benefits, the process of “Patlo”. This process needs your parents and family elders plus a whole lot of cash. It can be a very long process depending on the negotiations but it is all worthwhile in the end.
Traditionally, a man having identified his suitable life companion would tell his parents or Uncle about this discovery. His parents would at this point make an assessment of him as a young man and his capacity to step into manhood, judging whether or not he is ready to be a man. In some instances this would have already been done and perhaps the parents been a constant nag to him on when he will get married. Once they have approved of his decision, they set out to tell the elders of the family of his decision and in the case where he told the Uncle alone, he will embark on the same starting with his parents.
For the girl child, the young, beautiful lady, she tells her parents about the young man’s intention to marry. Even if he be older in age than the average young man, he is still considered a young man because of his ineligibility to be called a man because he is unmarried. At this point, her parents can either tell the elders in her family of what has been said or wait for the young man’s family to formally present the request to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage.
This is where the process begins, then “go kokota” comes in. Go kokota, simply translated is to knock on a door. Since the maiden family does not know the man’s family and vice versa, there first has to be an introduction of who they are and what they seek. This is when the request to marry is formally presented and the girl’s family receives it. It goes out to the rest of the family and then the ball gets rolling. The Uncle on the boy’s side of the family takes the lead on these negotiations and is in some cultures called “Rraditsesla”. The girl’s family also appoints a lead man for the proceedings who then liaises between the two families.
Having met, the lead men discuss requests and expectations of the two families and keep on agreeing on ways forward. The next stage after this is the “bogadi” or “lobola” negotiations. The girl’s family states their bride price and the boy’s family either agrees or negotiates it depending on the request and their available resources. The different cultures across the country determine this differently but all have a bride price to charge or pay. In the early days, this was strictly cattle because it was a major source of income and status symbol. Every household, whether rich or poor had a few herds of cattle under their name. Today, this has changed as economies have diversified and new interests developed in people. Some families do not have a single herd to their name and intentionally so while others have many. Due to the different economic climates some prefer to take money as bride price over cattle even though they have cattle to their name. It is either cattle or money and commonly nowadays an accompaniment of other goods such as clothing, goats, sheep, chicken etc. also join the fray.
The boy then comes back into the picture at this point, gathering whatever he has to himself and buys all that has been asked of him in order to take home his sweetheart. If it’s the cattle he buys it, clothes and everything else they ask for. The two uncles then agree on a date when these will be presented to the girl’s family and after that is done the magadi is paid and the two traditionally married.
It doesn’t however end here, a rather short but important process of “patlo” has to take place at the girl’s family by the boy’s family in the early morning before this can be concluded.
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