The process of Patlo: A Tswana wedding custom

South Africa, also known as the “Rainbow Nation”, has a diverse set of cultures. A culturally driven nation, as a spectator one gets to witness different elements of culturally diversified customs and practises. As the preparation for Espousal South Africa kicks away, we are here to explore some of the different wedding customs across various ethnic groups present in South Africa!

The Tswana tribe are one of the largest ethnic groups present in the Southern Part of Africa, mainly in Botswana and South Africa. Thus, the culture of the Tswanas is something that is very familiar with the entire region of South Africa. The Tswanas consider marriage as one of the most important institutions in the society, as it allows oneself to assert their presence in the society. The rituals in a Tswana wedding aren’t officially documented, and hence these customs and practices are passed down generations. In this week’s episode, we shall look into one such wedding custom of the Tswana Tribe and that is Patlo.

Patlo, or the right of passage, is a process in which the boy’s uncle meets a representative of the girl’s family and both discuss the terms for the marriage. During this process, both the family discuss about each other’s family and also about dowry. The term Patlo and Magadi refer to “Dowry” and “Asking” respectively. 

Typically in a Tswana tribe, usually the boy or the groom’s uncle is sent to seek the hand of a young girl for the marriage. This is all done in a court-like place which is known as “Kgotla”. As per the tradition in this courtroom, both the family of the boy and the girl are present. Usually it’s the uncles of both the family that lead this ritual. Once the approval is made, the uncles announce this to the women of the family that are present in the court. These women are led by the maternal uncle’s wife also known as “Mmamalome” . These women will then start an ululation followed by them asking for the girl’s hand for marriage. This entire process is reserved for the married women of the family. Once the approval is done from their behalf, the “mmamalome” and the other women present in the court give counselling to the bride to be which is known as “Golaiwa” . After the approval from the Bride to be, this message is informed to the men back by one of the women present in the court. This is when the next step of the negotiation process starts and that is the discussion of Dowry. Usually the dowry comes in the form of cows, or cash equivalent of the cows. Once the dowry is arranged and given, the groom to be is called and made to sit on a stone. Now the men of the family will counsel the boy and nurture him about the responsibility of a man in the society and the importance of starting a family. They will do so by passing down their personal experience and knowledge on him. After the end of the counselling, the groom to be is a given a chair to sit, as he’s now hailed as a man and not a boy officially. Ofcourse, this ritual differs according to different tribes, however this is the overall essence of the ritual. 

Find out more about South African weddings from various experts! Visit Espousal South Africa on the 26th and 27th of March 2021!