Landu & Hlobi ➳ Umembeso / by Abigail Smith

On a typical hot, bright Zululand day in April Hlobi’s father and uncles sat in the shade of the family home talking and occasionally greeting family members and friends as they arrived for the umembeso and took their seats under umbrellas on the front lawn.  Inside the ladies were finishing up a last little bit of ironing and preparations for the day. In the backyard of the family home stood a large, white tent with long decorated tables to which the caterers added finishing touches. A DJ was setting up his mixing desk and sheep was resting under a tree waiting patiently for the celebrations to begin. 

A convoy of cars arrived and the Landu’s family members, dressed in vibrant colours excitedly filed out of the cars,  gathered up the gifts they had brought and congregated together outside the gate. The gate to Holbi’s family home was closed with Hlobi’s family waiting inside the gate with Landu’s family waiting outside. Over the gate Landu's family was greeted with song, dance and ululating, Landu’s family responded with their own singing and dancing asking for permission to enter the yard by announcing that they had come bearing gifts. Both families continued to compete in song until Hlobi’s family finally gave permission for Landu’s family to enter the yard. 

The umembeso is a vibrant Zulu traditional celebration characterized by joy, love, happiness and laughter to celebrate the union between the two families as a result of the upcoming marraige between the bride and groom. Landu’s family had brought gifts for Hlobi’s family as a show of appreciation to the family for their new daughter-in-law.  Gifts of blankets, pinafores, and head scarves were handed out and singing, dancing and feasting ensued.