Umemulo is a ritual which is very similar to umhlonyana but it is like a 21st birthday celebration. It is a ritual done for a girl who has reached the age of 21; it is a token of appreciation from parents to daughter. To appreciate that their daughter has behaved herself until the age of 21 as it is usually for girls who have never been pregnant. It is also a way of saying that our daughter has grown and ready for marriage. In some instances you find that girls, especially first born child, may be faced with problems or get seriously ill if they did not have this ritual. Even if they already had children, they may need to do umemulo, especially before they get married. Usually when a girl is getting married and they did not have umemulo, the parents may take one of the lobola cows and perform the ritual.
The process of umemulo is very much like that of umhlonyana but the main difference is that, when doing umemulo a cow is slaughtered, if the girl did not have umhlonyana they may start with slaughtering a goat. And it is done for a girl that is 21 years or older but not younger unless a girl is getting married before the age of 21, it is to say you are old enough to get married, you have reached womanhood and the young men can come and make you their bride.
Umemulo for me, is important, your parents show that they appreciate the way you have behaved until reaching this stage. You are also prepared for marriage, you are taught on how to be good bride and wife. I would much rather have umemulo than a 21st birthday party, it has more meaning, you learn more about one’s culture and also about being a woman.
Ayanda Ngcobo, October 2012
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