Monday, July 20, 2015

Chinkhoswe! - Carole's Post

Imagine our delight when a wonderful friend in Zingwangwa and one of the first people that we got to know when we arrived in Blantyre, Amos Monjeza, told us that he was going to be married! This was in May and we were standing in the foyer/kitchen of the meetinghouse when he told us.  And in typical Malawian fashion, he didn't offer up any more information until asked!  Finally, I asked who it was, because we hadn't noticed anyone special in his life.  We have followed a couple of romances in the branch but this was just not on our radar. He pointed to the picture on the bulletin board of Chisomo Phiri, newly returned missionary who had served in Kenya. In fact, we had met her at the airport upon her return.  She is a sister to Brother Banda, elders quorum president and artist.

A wedding!  If I could, I would put exclamation marks on all my thoughts because George and I were so thrilled to see two such great people come together. Plus, that meant we would be able to see how weddings were done in Malawi.  I was even more thrilled when Amos said it would happen at the end of June!  That's quick planning!  Amos explained that the two families would come together first, to get to know one another and then exchange a few gifts and discuss the upcoming nuptials.  Then they would have a "chinkhoswe" where they would get "engaged".  
"Oh", I said, "so it's not a wedding but an engagement". Well..."Do you 'stay' (live) together after the chinkoswe?"  
"Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but we will."
"Oh, then in the United States we would not call that an engagement, but rather a wedding.."
Whatever....we spent the next two months trying to figure out what a chinkhoswe is and we are still not sure!  The only thing that we know is that it was a great party.

The date for the chinkoswe seemed to change daily, but finally July 6th was chosen, allowing enough time for family who live far away in the villages to make preparations to come.  Amos asked if I would help with any decorations, casually mentioning that Chisomo would like some green and pink.  Anyone who knows me knows that decorations just aren't my thing so I did what I always do.....I enlisted help!  Francee wasn't available so I asked Sister Chikapa because I had sensed she was creative and clever.  It was a great choice!  First, I went through the house looking for anything that would help decorate the cultural hall.  I found an old partly deconstructed green dress, which I cut into strips.  I found some pink flowered curtains.  Then I remembered some artificial plants out it the garage that had been leftover from the Merrill's home.  Aha, I remembered that the district had just purchased green tablecloths for a community meeting.  I added some baskets, artificial pink flowers, a string of Christmas lights.  Things were looking promising.

And the day arrives!

 In the morning, as I am carrying things in, the bride arrives!

The groom is all ready trying to get things set up.

Does this look familiar?  A cultural hall is a cultural hall...

Sister Chikapa was in a chipper mood, in spite of leaving a sick child at home and in the middle of her own moving preparations.

She surveyed the situation and began to do her magic.  The day before I had taken a cooler to church.  Sister Chikapa had managed to find pink flowers in Blantyre and after picking them, we kept them in the cooler overnight.

The former green dress and some colorful glasses from home.

How wonderful to have so many friends!  Everyone pitched in and helped!

Jonathan Banda

Frank Monchichi

Jonathan Nkhoma

And the transformations continues...

We took a peek in one of the classrooms and lo and behold
 a rooster?
a khazu (hoe)?
This is going to be an interesting afternoon...  I went home to change clothes for the party!

When I returned, Sister Banda had just arrived, sister-in-law to Chisomo.

Look at her dress!  Okay, I am envious...
Sister Monjeza, mother of Amos
Charles Monjeza, his brother

Then a large group of women from Chilobwe arrived, obviously having arranged transport.   They sat on the bride's side and it didn't take long for them to get in the mood, since the DJ had the music going.

I couldn't help myself!

Some of the people attending

 Thoko and her sister

President and Sister Mwale above.
President Chinyumba, to the left, along with Gabriel Chinomwe and President Amos of the Ndirande branch.

with Sister Lungu

And because it was P-Day and Amos and Chisomo are favorite people of the missionaries..
 Sister Dlamini with friend

Sister Frimpong with friend

Elders Ooma and Slade

Elders Massey and Etiang

Elders Lemperle and Kampelya

Elders Mothlaping and Barrett

Elders Rugumayo and Allred

Memory Munthali left a few days later for a mission to Zimbabwe.  She is sitting with Sister Chikapa, decorator extraordinaire.

Khama Gangire (to the left) has been waiting for months for his South African visa to come through so he can leave on his mission.

One of the first items of business was to select three people to collect the money and man the bank.  We weren't quite sure what that meant.  Sister Banda was one of those selected.

My favorite part was when the doors opened and in walked, or rather danced, a procession of what I might call "attendants".

Eight little girls all in matching white shirts and swingy skirts, with necklaces, hairbands, and each carrying a wooden paddle, circled round the room while keeping rhythm to the music.

The bride followed wearing a white top with a bright orange and yellow skirt.  Her "maid of honor" accompanied her.
Chisomo with Nancy Masoo, her "maid of honor".
One of the first things that Chisomo had to do was to find Amos by going through the audience on a search.  When she found him, she brought him to the front, along with his "best Man".

At last, the bride and groom are together up front.

A representative from each side of the family is called to the front.

On Chisomo's side (or the Banda side), an older uncle comes forward.

On the Monjeza side, Elliot Mkandawire, a close family friend, is called forward.

The two representatives play an important role in the chinkhoswe because they not only show how two families are coming together, but they also play the role of counsellors in the future if there are any disagreements or marital problems.

So now the dancing begins.  The MC, speaking in Chichewa, announced each new dance by calling out a category.  Then members of the group from that category dance to the front of the room, circle the couple, and throw small bills into a floor basket or at the feet of the couple, and dance their way back to their chairs.

At one point, the bride leaves with her attendants.  When she enters the room for the second time, once again following her attendants, she is wearing a dress that matches Amos shirt.

The dancing continues!

The money is taken to the bank, where it is counted.  Others line up to exchange their big bills for the smaller ones at the bank.  So the money get recirculated over and over.

The attendants come out, bearing dinners of chicken and rice, caggage salad.  Attendees are encouraged to bid on the dinners and in some cases, people's names are called out to come and pay for them.

The hours of music and dancing passed.  The MC called the two family representatives up to the front of the room.  First of all, they shared a cooked chicken that was brought out for them to eat.
For the groom's side, Brother Mkandawire carried a rooster and for the bride's side, her uncle held a chicken. 
Then they exchanged their birds!

Once the exchange was over, everyone watched...

while members from both sides brought out traditional gifts for the home the couple would create together.

A container, a whisk broom, a mat, a reed broom,

 a large basket,

a khazu and other tools.

It was beginning to get dark, and the chinkhoswe was beginning to wind down.

Clearly, some of the attendants are saying enough is enough 

A big thank you to the DJ, Lyford Ngwira, who never stopped for hours.

and I'm hungry!
The last photos are taken 

and as the final guests are leaving, the takedown begins.

As is usually the case, it is much easier to take things down than put them up!

The bank closes up shop after counting up all the money.
Children are happy but tired after such an afternoon of celebrating.

So the chinkhoswe is over and Amos and Chisomo, after spending a glorious day together, go back to their respective homes.  
This chinkhoswe will be an engagement party, not the traditional marriage, as is the case with some tribes depending on the region of Malawi.  
Amos and Chisomo will be having a church wedding, probably in November, and everyone can celebrate again!