Exclusive From “Gay Zulu Wedding” World First Gay Traditional Wedding

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In KwaDukuza, South Africa. 27-year-old Tshepo Modisane and Thoba Sithole claim to have made history being the first gay men to be married in a traditional way, rural ceremony in KwaZulu-Natal. MANDY DE WAAL speaks to the happy couple.

In the town where one of Africa’s greatest warriors and military strategists was laid to rest, two courageous men are redefining what traditional masculinity is all about. In KwaDukuza (Stanger), where a memorial of Shaka kaSenzangakhona stands proud, Tshepo Modisane and Thoba Sithole became the first gay men in the province to celebrate their nuptials with a traditional, rural marriage on Saturday 6 April 2013, and invited the town to come and celebrate with them.
“This is the 21st century - society has changed and evolved. It is about time that gay rights are upheld and gay people are accepted, particularly by black people living in rural communities,” Tshepo told Daily Maverick on the phone from Durban. “We just want to lead happy and productive lives. We are gay but we are still African, and we want to live our lives in an African way following our traditions and beliefs,” he said.
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At their wedding, the pair was joined by family and friends in a traditional ceremony that saw the doors of the Stanger Siva Sungam community hall flung wide open to the local community, who turned up in droves to celebrate the couple’s union. 

The ceremony included the slaughtering of a bull to ensure that the nuptials would be blessed in terms of ancestral traditions, and witnessed the exchange of customary gifts.
“We decided on a traditional wedding not only to keep in line with our customs and traditions, but we also wanted to show the people of this country that, yes - it is possible to have a traditional African gay wedding,” explains Modisane. “There is this idea that being gay is an ‘unAfrican’ phenomenon, that homosexuality is something to be ashamed of - that it is a Western thing. Thabo and I wanted to go against this notion by showing South Africans that being gay is indeed African and is very much a part of the African culture. We wanted people to know that a gay union can be accepted and celebrated by friends, family and the broader community,” he says.

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Modisane’s husband, Sithole, says that initially the community of KwaDukuza expected to come to the wedding and to see two men draped in wedding dresses. “People can have strange notions about what it means to be gay because for the most part prejudice is based on ignorance. But when the people from KwaDukuza arrived at our wedding they witnessed two very ordinary men in love, and they celebrated with us.” The wedding was aired on eNews and there’s a heart-warming moment that shows the pair walking into the ceremony dressed in their respective traditional garb – Modisane in his Tswana regalia and Sithole dressed in Zulu garb. As the two arrive and the crowd gets sight of them, the open skies fill with the sound of ululating and cheering.
Modisane picks up the story: “We had over 300 people who witnessed our wedding. The response was amazing because people were so excited and looking forward to the wedding. On the day people came out in their numbers, which was so unbelievable,” he says excitedly.
The pair say that they were overwhelmed by the affection and the joy displayed by the crowd. “It was a remarkable experience to be surrounded by so many people who were so accepting and warm and loving towards us,” says Sithole. “For us it was important to normalise gay marriages in the community - for people to come and witness, and see that there’s nothing strange or scary about what we’re doing. That we’re just two guys in love.”

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Modisane and Sithole first met in Durban when they were both at university. “We were just friends then, but I had to come back to Johannesburg and we lost contact,” says Modisane. “Some time afterwards Thoba got a job in Johannesburg and started to work here on a full time basis in 2011. We started out as gym partners and the relationship grew – soon we were lovers and then knew we wanted to be each other’s partners. We got engaged in June last year - that’s when we decided we wanted to get married.”

Today the couple live together in Johannesburg where Modisane is an IT specialist and Sithole an audit manager at PwC. “Yes, we could have got married in Johannesburg, but it was important for us to be brave enough to have our wedding in a rural area,” says Modisane, adding: “Besides, that’s where my partner was born, grew up and went to school. It is where he comes from.”

The wedded couple will henceforth be known as Mr and Mr Sithole-Modisane.

Comments: 4


    1. Your slip is showing

  2. Beautiful. God bless them. May they have a wonderful life together.

  3. focusing on a rare incident in africa means it is rare