You work for the level of your invitations to ceremonies
I scored an invite to an umembeso and umkhehlo that promises to be a spectacular event this coming month.
It is in Zululand, and calls for early travel and accommodation preparations. Planning the trip and all the necessary requirements for slaying on the day made me realise that our people actually have a hierarchy of invitations.
There is unspoken implications that accompany the manner in which you are invited by the host.
Firstly, we were raised to understand that "kumele ubahambele omakhelwane" (honour thy neighbour's invite).
Else, you find your entire family shunned by the community and will one day have nobody pitching up to help with the peeling of vegetables and samp pot the night before you host big events. Or even struggle to find local boys to dig a grave when you lose a loved one.
A simple absence at your neighbour's do may have life-long repercussions in tight-knit communities.
What becomes of you when you honour the invite depends entirely on how it reached you.
There is the hand written note that will be brought to your home by dusty kid from the host. This tells you that you may be required to come through to the host's house the night before to help peel vegetables and chop whatever else will be cooked for the event.
You probably have a stash of sharp knives that you always take with when called to duty.
You are basically the behind the scenes neighbour who makes the occasion a success. However, you will be the last to eat at the event - if there is left over food after the other guests have been catered for.
There is the telephone call invite to the extended family members. These folks feel entitled to an invite to every family occasion. Mostly because they want to come and direct all processes on the day and act as if they rule the family.
There is the verbal lobbying that is specifically meant for the heavy-weight local aunties who have mastered the art of brewing umqombothi.
You must invite them in person to show respect for their craft.
They bring their own pots and drums and wooden trays. And no matter how illiterate these women are, they measure water, sorghum and mealie meal with great accuracy.
The same invite is extended to the lady who cooks the rice and never burns the pot or over cook it.
There is the video invite that is sent exclusively to the guests who are basically aesthetics for the events. They do not add much value to the host, but can never be excluded from these events because they hold influence in other areas affecting the host.
They arrive in flashy cars, late, and push their way through to be seated in the front.
The women wear high heels to esigcawini and struggle to pin the money on the makoti's head gear because their manicures are too long.
They become prominent features in the photo album for the event while the locals are blurred out in the back.
Then of course there is the word of mouth invites that land on the folks that actually enjoy the occasion more than anyone there. They will eat, drink and dance and tell everyone just how good a host you are.
But none of these invites will move without the patriarch of the family having been notified. You must first ascertain his availability and organise the event at his convenience.
As for me, I got a WhatsApp video invite for the March do.
I need new red shoes for a pop of colour.