Journal of
African Studies and Development

  • Abbreviation: J. Afr. Stud. Dev
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2189
  • DOI: 10.5897/JASD
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 238

Full Length Research Paper

The changing philosophy of African marriage: The relevance of the Shona customary marriage practice of Kukumbira

Munyaradzi Mawere1* and Annastacia Mbindi Mawere2
  1Department of Humanities, Faculty of Social Sciences, Pedagogical University, CP49, Xai-xai, Mozambique. 2Chadzamira High School, Gutu, Zimbabwe.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 11 November 2010
  •  Published: 31 December 2010



      This paper is a philosophical examination of African forms of marriage, particularly the customary marriage practice of Kukumbira (asking for a bride/woman’s hand in marriage from her parents, but with her informed consent) and adopts the Shona ethnic group of Zimbabwe as a case study. It investigates the perception of the Shona people towards the practice of the customary practice of Kukumbira. To establish the receptivity of the traditional African marriage custom, Kukumbira, a study was conducted. Fifty people (30 females and 20 males) from Masvingo and Manicaland provinces participated in the study. Ad questionnaire comprising closed and open items was used as a data collection tool. Data was summarized by means of frequency tables and analyzed qualitatively using evaluative descriptions. An overwhelming majority of respondents cited heft bride wealth charges, colonial legacy and modernity as reasons for the daunting of the custom, kukumbira, yet they wanted the custom to continue on the grounds that it is a valuable part of their culture, respects women’s human rights, stresses prohibition of pre-marital sexual conducts and that it reinforces family ties/links. However, the respondents pointed out that the custom should not be commercialized as heft bride wealth leads to commodification of women. Those who favored abolishment of the custom and other forms of marriage where lobola is paid were a minority. They relegated the custom on grounds that it is at odds with gender equality that contemporary women are fighting for. They also perceived kukumbira and other forms of marriage where lobola is paid as institutions of patriarchy intended to serve males not the women concerned. This study concluded that respondents generally viewed the custom positively although they noted that it is vulnerable to abuse by some parents who charge heft bride wealth as well as by some husbands and in-laws who abuse the married women’s rights on grounds that they bought her at a price. In view of this conclusion, it was recommended that the custom of kukumbira should be maintained but in such a manner that it builds affinity and social capital between families rather than creating animosity between them, and it do not expose women to abuse in marriage but respects their human rights.


Key words: Customary marriage practice, Kukumbira, Shona, relevance, lobola, Zimbabwe, Africa.