We’re in the so-called festive season. And it looks like everybody is adding colour to it by marrying off an offspring. And typical of Wabongo, they want it big…royalty kind of thing. It’s no wonder, hall owners are laughing all the way to the bank, so are bar owners, deejays and catering service providers.
Most of the wedding prep meetings—vikao vya harusi— are held in bars, which is the smartest thing to do.
If you hold the meeting at your house, it means you are, literally, the host of all those people whose hard-earned money you’re soliciting to finance your offspring’s princely wedding bash. Now you need to give these invitees a treat.
Yeah, show them you aren’t mean. Demonstrate you’ll accept their money since that’s the way they’ll qualify to be part of the impending fairytale wedding ceremony. Make it appear like even without them, the big wedding ceremony being planned could still take place.
Indeed, you’ve attended a few vikao that were so elaborate that one would have confused them with the wedding ceremony itself. Complete with professional catering service, music and even an emcee. This, you concluded, was meant to give the feel of what the actual thing would be at Kilimanjaro Kempinski, White Sands, Golden Tulip or such other Five-Star grocery where the reception would be held.
But then, if, like Wa Muyanza, you’re the type that would hold the reception for your kid at some obscure hall in say, Manzese, Tabata, Bunju or Madale, then, you will advisedly hold your vikao at some third rate grocery. In such a venue, everybody buys their own beer and bites in the course of the kikao.
Or, you might drink without paying immediately, but at the end, you’ll all be forced to part with money in what we call uchakavu. Through uchakavu, everyone is made to put something into a collection basket—an exercise conducted by a very intimidating, no-nonsense fundraiser!
He or she will remain standing before you with the basket, embarrassing you into reaching for your wallet and part with some money. Non-drinkers’ gnash their teeth, swear silently while dropping money into the basket, for the heavy bill announced by the chairperson would have been occasioned by beer!
There’s no uchakavu when you foolishly choose to hold vikao for your bride/groom to-be offspring at your homestead. Why, there, everything that’s eaten or imbibed, as we’d say in our good old Kiswahili slang, inakula kwako.
But then, after all is said and done, that’s us. It’s our cultural practice that defines Bongo today. Which is that, what was once a family matter is now a communal affair. One man’s headache is everybody’s headache too.
As he writes this, Wa Muyanza has a headache in his hands that, he admits, would have killed him if he didn’t share it with his close (as well as the not-so-close) friends. Long live Ujamaa, Bongo’s concept of African Socialism in which what’s mine—my headaches included—is yours too.