I grapple with the question because at the core I am a traditionalist; a serious conservative who believes in the preservation of culture and the morality of the society. At the same time I am also ultra-techie; believing in the modernization of our society and matters relating to our culture and particularly language. I believe in developing digital and online dictionaries and in the development of spellcheckers of our languages. However, the more I attend weddings the more I see the tension between the traditional and the modern; the old and the new. Many young people feel that the traditional route is somewhat of a nuisance; a requirement which they have to fulfil to please their parents, uncles and grandparents. If they had to choose, they would not go through the traditional wedding at all. The elders on the other hand, feel that weddings that are not done through the traditional arrangement are destined to fail because batho ba bo ba sa laiwa; ba sa fiwa molao wa tseo wa Setswana. I here refer to the traditional route of paying bogadi; perhaps the very verb paying is inappropriate; giving may be more appropriate. Perhaps there are fewer places in Botswana where there is so much adherence to the traditional wedding like amongst the Bangwaketse. In Kanye if you wish to marry a young lady, you go to the main Kgotla kwa Ntsweng; to announce your intentions. Prior to that arduous trip, you make your intentions known to your uncles and close relatives at least a year before the planned wedding. Then there would be periodic visitations between the families to clarify matters such as wedding dates and who the leading uncles would be. These visitations would be characterised by much tea drinking and cake eating – all in pursuit of friendship building and bonding between the families. Three weeks before the wedding, the prospective bride and groom appear before kgosi accompanied by their parents and relatives; perhaps a team of about 20 persons from each side. This happens every Thursday in Kanye. At the kgotla the uncle of the prospective bride will stand holding a small white flag and start his declaration in the presence of the entire kgotla: “Mong’a me ke tla ka boora Semangmang; Re buile mme re dumalane; Ba tsaya ngwana wa ga nnake kwa goora Otlogetswe kwa GooRuele”. He will be followed by the uncle of the prospective groom; holding a small white flag: “Go ntse jalo mong’a me; Re buile re dumalane; Ntlo le yone e teng.” It is one of those unique practices amongst the Bangwaketse introduced by Bathoen II, the son of Seepapitso III. He declared that all brides-to-be should be built for by their prospective husbands. Therefore, when prospective husbands appear at the kgotla expressing an intention to marry; they must also declare if a house has been built for the prospective bride. If such a house has not been built; the wedding cannot proceed. In Kanye the verb go nyala is not used; mosadi o a tsewa. Bangwaketse ga ba na nnyalela!
After three weeks have passed tseo e pegilwe, the day they call pholoso, not in the Sesotho sense of salvation, but rather in the Setswana sense of removing from a lofty place; bogadi must be brought to the kgotla for inspection. Eight cows and a sheep, the one they call mokwele, or lengwaelo; the very one that should not urinate on the kraal upon delivery to the bride’s kraal or else e tlaa kaba diphatlha tsa tsholo. Upon arrival in the kraal; it is immediately slaughtered. Something spectacular then happens on the day of the wedding celebration. The bride is dressed in a western white dress and the groom a magnificent three-piece suit. There is a band or a dj. There are ushers, bridesmaids and groomsmen. There is a cake; a photographer and a videographer. The songs are modern. For some there is a reception in the evening with wines galore. It is the fusion of the new and the old.
However in many of the weddings that I have attended I have realised that the parents get very frustrated and at the same time frustrate many people. During the day usually there are uncles and perhaps some neighbours from the same kgotla who control excessively. They are known sometimes as boralekgotla. These are not junior chiefs, but men who claim to know better than anybody else on wedding processes and procedures. They want to control who can speak in the tent; who can take photographs; when such photos may be taken and for how long. They care less about the invited guests. They however do care about batsadi, other older villages that they know and respect. These men, more than anything else fortify their positions behind the big black pots of meat. They care very little about rice and veggies; like many Batswana men; it is the meat that they care for. It is no wonder Batswana men generally die before their wives! When it comes to serving; their eyes are on the meat, especially loswao or seswaa. They want only small portions of meat to be served to everyone. What they are aiming for is to ensure that large quantities of meat remain so that they could take them to their own homes. The sad thing about these men is that they never contribute money or a beast to any of these wedding celebrations. They are an incarnation of human greed. They want to control but they do not want to contribute. Because of such frustrations many have decided not to have traditional weddings or to sideline their neighbours and uncles on the wedding program. The groom and bride wish for their guests to eat well and enjoy themselves. They want to enjoy their wedding day; to dance, eat and drink in the company of their friends and close family and not under the authoritative hand of a distant relative. They therefore choose to have their wedding in a hall, lodge or hotel where the authoritative distant relative will feel out of place. In many cases such an oppressive individual doesn’t even make it to these strange places. He stays put in the kgotla drinking traditional beer and eating meat. It is therefore clear that for a long time a Setswana wedding will continue to be a tense fusion of the new and the old.