This is Zambia: Kitchen Party
June 12, 2012 § 12 Comments
This white girl can’t dance.
And I had a paparazzi of Zambians with their cameras and smartphones trying to document the mzungu making a spectacle of herself.
My Zambian neighbors invited to me to join them for a kitchen party for one of their relatives. Usually, a kitchen party is given in honor of a bride to prepare her for married life. Gifts are given for her household and especially the kitchen (think pots and pans, casserole dishes, utensils, dishes, etc.). Dancing is done as a way to show the bride how to behave in the bedroom to please her husband.
To plan the party, a committee of close friends and relatives is started months ahead of time and is usually quite formal (I’m currently the secretary of another kitchen party planning committee. I take official minutes and read them back at meetings. Not. even. joking.). The committee forms a “mother’s parcel” gift that usually includes the larger items that are needed for a household such as refrigerator, stove, etc.
At the party itself, it is often a large joyous event held for all the women in the bride’s community. The food will include Zambian cuisine such as chicken, rice, tomato and onion sauce, beans, and of course nshima.
Once all of the guests have arrived (a few hours after the starting time in concordance with Zambian time), the Matron will begin the introduction to the guests about the kitchen party. Historically, the matron was often an older relative or auntie of the bride. In modern times, this is often a woman hired for the position.
Finally, the bride emerges and the dancing begins, in order to entertain, honor, and teach her. All of the gifts are placed in the center and the matron calls on each gift giver to come and present their present to the bride. This is done with a big ceremony of laying down both ways on your side and doing a clapping motion to show respect. A dance is then performed. Of course, you have to have a chitenge (piece of African fabric) wrapped around you when dancing. Duh. When you have concluded, you then explain to the bride how to use the gift you have given to her.
After all of the gifts have been given, the groom is brought and the wife honors the husband by laying down in front of him in the same way. They then dance together. A chitenge may be tied around them to show how their lives are being tied together forever.