Is tribalism getting in the way of true love?

Black Couple, oil painting on canvas by R.Kouwshigan. Picture:
Black Couple, oil painting on canvas by R.Kouwshigan. Picture:

Although numerous couples have shown that a person’s culture and religion does not impede their ability to love, cultural discrimination is still a big issue in African relationships.

Parents still warn their children against marrying partners from other cultures based on stereotypes perpetuated by society.

“Don’t marry a Xhosa or Mosotho woman, they cannot be trusted” or “a zulu man will abuse you and try to control your life”.

These are some of the ways in which tribalism shows its ugly head in many relationships.

Aside from the language barrier in some cases, bi-cultural couples also have to deal with integrating their two cultures and traditions which can be quite a task if there’s no family support.

“The first time my boyfriend took me to meet his family, I was met with a bad reception from his aunt. She thought that she could say nasty things about me in her mother tongue because I look 'coloured'.

“My boyfriend’s aunt said to him “Goreng o tlisa morwa montlung, ga o itse gore morwa ga nyalwe?” Basically asking him why he had brought a coloured girl home because we are not ‘marriage material’”, Anna says.

"She was very embarrassed when she realised that speak Setswana very well", she adds.

Banele has a similar story.

“As a Xhosa woman I was never welcomed into my husband’s family. His sisters constantly gossiped about me in Sesotho knowing that I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I was referred to as “lexhosa le” which really hurt my feelings.

“I hated the fact that they decided to judge me based on their perceptions of my people instead of getting to know me first.”

Although sad to hear, the two women’s stories are nothing new and tribal clashes are not unique to our country.

All across the world, couples are faced with such challenges.

According to website such occurrences are common in many Ugandan tribes.

“A Musoga (tribe name), said his parents told him keep away from Banyarwanda because: “They are likely to be promiscuous people. I was also told that they never have enough sex,” the website writes.

Anthropologist Fred Bateganya also told the publication that such behaviour stemmed historically from concerns about their children’s wellbeing as well as the need to preserve culture.

“Questions like how their daughter would be treated and whether she would be taken care of in case the marriage went sour often came up, thus the insistence on people they knew. Since they knew very little about people from other tribes - given their limited movements - they discouraged marriage with them. They also discouraged intermarriages to keep their culture intact,” he was quoted saying.

Recently actress Bonnie (Mbuli) Henna received criticism for warning other women against marrying into Xhosa families.

"If u wanna cook,clean and make tea like a crazy person ,marry into a Xhosa family #yipIsaidIt (sic), she posted on her Twitter page.

"I love ma Xhosa ppls but Twelve years a slave aint got nothin on ya'll !!!" (sic), she added.

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