Lesbian couple Antoinette (Vaivi) Swartz and Sape Maodi-Swartz have shown it is possible to stay true to oneself and still respect African tradition by paying lobola.
“The initiation point for us was saying we want to do this process. Speaking to our parents about it we found them open to the idea because I think they expected it from my side,” said Sape.
Sape said they decided her family should get the payment. They preferred not to disclose the amount.
“I spoke to the parents and informed them and then decided on the date for the lobola.”
In African culture, the man pays lobola to the wife’s family, to thank them for raising her and to allow him to take her from them.
Sape said they wanted to follow tradition and get married like any other couple.
“We did the entire process like a heterosexual couple would do. The main reason was that if we don’t do it that way, most people would not respect our marriage when it comes to African customs and tradition. It wouldn’t gain the same respect that a heterosexual marriage carries with it,” said Sape.
Gazing at one another and smiling, they said it was important to bridge the gap between tradition and homosexual relationships. Usually gay couples would simply sign the marriage contract and not pay the lobola, they said.
“We decided to take it [tradition] on. Although it’s not inclusive of homosexuals, we made it inclusive of us.”
The two admitted to encountering problems with paying lobola, but found ways to ensure their cultures were respected and their situation accommodated. They said communication was key to the success of the process.
“When we were not comfortable with something, we spoke about it and found ways to negotiate around the cultural requirements to ensure they accommodated lesbians,” said Sape.
Vaivi said the driving force behind their decision to follow culture was to ensure their families blessed and accepted their union. It ensured the ancestors of both families knew about and accepted the new members. Families performed rituals to announce new additions to the clan. This happened when people married or when a child was born.
The couple said it resulted in people from their communities embracing their relationship and way of life.
They held a traditional wedding attended by 280 guests on December 19. It served as an eye-opener for the parents of some of the guests who attended.
“Most of the families don’t accept their children being homosexuals. It was easy for the parents to see that we can still follow the proper steps and tradition. This was not only for us but for the rest of society to see that it can be done. They must understand that this is love and it doesn’t matter if it’s two females,” said Vaivi.
They intended to have a white wedding later and were saving up for it.
They wanted to have a child and build a family together. Sape said they would use artificial insemination, and she would carry the baby.
The pair hoped their story would inspire others to follow tradition while still remaining true to themselves and their sexual orientation.