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Other Articles from The Villager

Olufuko


by Linekela Halwoodi
Columns

 

Have you noticed how hard it is to find a damn good man in the city these days?
It is at times like these that I wish I were a virgin who lived over 200 years ago in some village in northern Namibia.
I know these days virgins are as hard to find as a pair of size-30 skinny jeans in the beginning of summer but back in the day when virgins ruled the world, the Oshiwambo culture practised a little ceremony called “Olufuko” - to marry them without involving men directly.
In the previous columns, we just played the girls vs. boys card but I’m taking a little time out to assess a cultural situation that could save a lot of single women like me.
 Olufuko is (was) not a one-on-one marriage but a gathering of the village virgins and a way of throwing them a feast to celebrate their purity while trying to find them a man. I am not sure if that festivity still has a place in this world but for the sake of preserving our heritage, I’d like to make space for it in this column.
Before you start thinking that the girls are given to the oldest men in the village to pop their cherries, no, it was never the case and we are not using the ‘egg technique’ to test if they are really virgins either.
I spoke to two women this week; one, a city-bred and the other, from the village, to see how much knowledge they had about their own heritage.
Trust me, the city girl came close to knowing what the ceremony was all about but she fell off the grid.
“It’s those traditional Wambu ceremonies where girls were checked if they were virgins by walking over a piece of wood. Other activities were that guys would pick whichever girl they wanted to marry from a crowd,” a certain Ines (the city girl) said.
She was almost right but she got it all mixed up; the girl does the picking and the ceremony is not exactly for virginity testing.
Olivia the village girl said, “It is a wedding ceremony.” And she was right, it is exactly that.
You see, before Christians came to these parts of the planet, virgin girls were not married in churches. They were round up in a group, then taken to a house where their wedding ceremonies were to take place.
On the day of the wedding ceremonies, they would smear ashes on their bodies and go bare-breasted with Odelela covering their lady parts.
The village people would cook meat and make home-brewed beer while a drum would be played for the girls to come to the centre of events.
And just like that, without a husband, they would be married. Of course, the elders probably threw bones around or spit on them, I don’t know, but something went down - that much I know.
Men would then take a leaf bracelet and tie it around the wrists of the girls they were interested in. If and when the girl broke the bracelet, it would mean she was not interested but if she left it on, then the man would officially have been accepted by the girl as her man.
So if the girl fell pregnant, it would not be considered as conception out of wedlock and she would not be called (in modern terms) a slut or back then, an “oshikumbu”.
And that is how Olufuko happens(ed). My tribe, the Kwanyama’s, call it Efundula Lengoma.
This is like finding a boyfriend your parents and society will approve of and should you fall pregnant for him, you would not be sneered at.
I’d say those virgins had it pretty easy. In this day and age, it’s not so much the young pregnant girl who’s sneered at, but the virgin.
The days when virginity gave a sense of pride are over. Now, it’s seen as an embarrassment and quite frankly, no one has the time to teach an inexperienced girl.
People ask questions like, ‘who in their right mind is a virgin these days?’ But I’d say, I wouldn’t mind posing as a virgin any day, just so I can get myself a fine man of my choice.