The beauty and bitterness of a polygamous marriage… First and second wives, Siphokazi and Phumelele, are heartbroken when their husband, Mpiyakhe Zungu, marries a third wife, Sibongile, in a traditional ceremony.
YOU can’t help but marvel at the beauty of an authentically traditional Zulu wedding, especially when complex practices are neatly captured on TV. Mzansi Magic’s drama series, Isibaya, gave viewers the pleasure of experiencing this.
From the traditional Zulu attires which are a reflection of heritage and culture to the singing and rituals that are a reminder of tradition in the western society we live in today, the Isibaya episode captured it all. Of course, like in any other culture, what would a wedding be without a bit of drama?
With all the beauty there is at the wedding, a polygamous family has to welcome the third wife but it is not an entirely warm welcome as the two wives find it a hard to celebrate this special occasion.
For many women in Mzansi, polygamy is taboo and unpractised. When born into a culture or family that practises polygamy, you would think it would be easy for women to accept it and be happy to have a new addition to the family. In the case of first wife of Mpiyakhe Zungu (played by Siyabonga Thwala), Siphokazi (played by comedian Celeste Ntuli) and the second wife Phumelele (played by Ayanda Borotho), the idea of welcoming a third wife into the family is a bitter pill to swallow.
Mpiyakhe is the head of the house, a strong Zulu man with deeply rooted cultural values. His wives seldom have an opinion on issues concerning him and he has fallen in love with another woman, Sibongile (played by Lerato Mvelase). MaMthembu and Phumelele have no other choice but to hide their unhappiness. However, their faces have a sad story to tell.
“Every woman in 2019 has a choice of the kind of relationship she wants to be part of and that’s
the beauty of the times we live in. As long as there is complete understanding of what polygamy is and there is an agreement between the parties involved on how they will carry their relationship, then I guess that’s fine,” Lerato says.
She continues to say that she is a firm believer in belonging to a culture. “Practising one’s culture is important as it defines a person, grounds them and they never feel alone. This is as long as the culture does not dehumanise, belittle and disrespect people from other cultures,” she says.
JEALOUSY AND INSECURITY
Jealousy and insecurity come into play. Sibongile is quite different to Mpiyakhe’s two wives who have become more like sisters. They have to welcome a young wife who is modern and a new flower in the Zungu garden. It is a surprise to see the often guarded, disciplined and traditional wives give in to the temptations of something so culturally sinful as envy for a ‘sisterwife’. Phumelele’s teenage daughter, Thokozani, takes matters into her own hands. In a bid to mend her mother’s broken heart, she takes a pair of scissors and cuts Sibongile’s wedding dress into what looks like an irrecoverable mess.
The jealousy is not something new for the Zungu sister wives. As close knit as they are, Phumelele has been jealous of Siphokazi in the past but they have somehow remained close. Could it be that the situation with the new bride needs getting used to? Or could it be another Iris situation (former third wife) who was a complete misfit in the family and openly hated for her modern and devious ways? No matter what their feelings are towards the new wife, Mpiyakhe will have his way, as usual.