Feb 05


by in Culture & Heritage

Ayanda Ncgobo

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

This post is also available in: Zulu

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42 Responses to “Umemulo”

  1. From Sanelisiwe Mabaso:

    Thank you for sharing this, I was hoping that by now there will be comments on this. I have many questions on this about the main purpose of umemulo. The requirements for a girl to have this kind of a ceremony. Umhlonyane is very clear, immediately when a girl menstruate the ceremony must be made for her for everyone to see that a little girl of that house has grown. I wish I coul get more information on this, on the importance of umemulo. It happens that when you reach the age of 21 your parents do not really know your real identity, you might respect them but not outsiders, you might be well behaved at home because maybe you have very strict parents but when you get your freedom, with your friends in boarding school or university residents you behave like a wild animal. What should the parents look at before considering making you this ceremony, I do not think that the significance of this ceremony is still understood and recognised.I am almost clueless about this but would really appreciate clearity, its important that I get that.

    Posted on May 9, 2013 at 7:12 am #
  2. From Ayanda Ngcobo:

    Sanelisiwe,I understand your point, umemulo is a special ceromony for a girl, almost every girl looks foward to turning 21 so that they can feel appreciated,and prepared for marriage. You may find that some girls, especially the first borns, may be faced with difficulties because they did not go through this ceremony, it may be sometimes done because it is tradition and the ancestors want it to be done not just because the child was well behaved. I think it has more significance and is more special if the girl reaches 21 without having a child but that is not always the case.For some people even when they are married, they are compelled by circumstances to do umemulo.

    Posted on May 10, 2013 at 9:05 am #
  3. From Nonhlanhla Gama:

    Hi there,I really like how we still have youngsters who engage with tradition,I’m turning 21 next month and ill also be having uMemulo. After all the research I’ve done I can’t wait for the big day to come. Having to explain to people what uMemulo is seems rather difficult as there seems to be confusion on who should actually perform the ceremony

    Posted on August 20, 2013 at 7:49 am #
    • From Student Editor:

      Hi Nonhlanhlo
      That’s great, hope everything will go according to plan… We would love for you to share your experience, after the ceremony.

      Posted on August 26, 2013 at 9:16 am #
  4. From Busi Ndlovu:

    I hear you but you say it is done to a girl taht has not fallen pregnant. I thought it is done for a girl that has kept herself as a virgin until 21 years to promote a culture of abstinence.

    Posted on August 28, 2013 at 11:03 am #
    • From Student Editor:

      Originally it was for a girl who has kept herself as a virgin but nowadays virginity testing is not usually done during the process of umemulo.

      Posted on August 29, 2013 at 7:57 am #
  5. From Luyanda:

    Hi, thank you very much for the explanation my question is, after the umemulo,, is it not disrespecting your parents if you introduce ur in laws formally to them (parents/elders)?

    Posted on August 29, 2013 at 1:34 am #
    • From Student Editor:

      Hi Luyanda
      When you say inlwas, are refering to the people or family who have paid lobola for you or just the family of the person you are in a relationship with? It depends, if that family has started with the lobola negotiations than they can be considered as part of your family.

      Posted on August 29, 2013 at 7:52 am #
  6. From sonto 4rm gauteng:

    hy guys im 18 yrs i do lyk 2 ask ukuthi umemulo uyayenzelwa if u r nt a virgin

    Posted on August 31, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

      HY SONTO


      Posted on October 31, 2016 at 11:08 pm #
  7. From sonto 4rm gauteng:

    hy guys i jst wanna knw ukuthi when u r nt a vigin do thy do umemulo for you or pls tel me ukuthi umemulo wenzelwa abanjani

    Posted on August 31, 2013 at 8:55 pm #
    • From Student Editor:

      Hi Sonto
      Kudala umemulo was for virgins but now it is mainly done for a girl who does not have a child or when a girl is about to get married and her parents did not do umemulo for her, they can take one of the lobola cows and use it for umemulo. Uma abazali bekwenzela umemulo ngoba bejabulela ukuthi awukabi nayo ingane, inkinga ayikho.

      Posted on September 2, 2013 at 8:57 am #
  8. From Zamabhedla Mlambo:

    Umemulo wenzelwa itshitshi kodwa kulesikhathi samanje abantu sebewenzela abantu aba ngenabantwana loko ke kuphambene nosiko lwethu thina maZulu. Mina ngina 21 & still a virgin on da7th of december ds ceremony will be perfomed. Angazi ke laba abenzelwa bengewona amatshitshi ingoba kwenzenjani.

    Posted on December 6, 2013 at 6:48 am #
  9. From logo design:

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    Posted on December 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm #
  10. From thuthukile:

    I will be turning 21 in april and I will have umemulo wami ngodecember,I am indeed still a virgin,what I am not sure about it the fact that I will be forced to cut my draidlocks and I am not sure why?

    Posted on January 6, 2014 at 4:20 pm #
  11. From Ayanda Ngcobo:

    Hi Thuthukile

    I have not witnessed that but I have heard that in the Ndebele culture, they have a ritual that is similar to umememulo and the girl has to shave their hair, it may represent the beginning of a new life. Well, if your family wants you to cut them off, then you must do that, people have different ways of performing rituals, if that is how it is done in your family then you must respect that.

    Posted on February 10, 2014 at 8:10 am #
  12. From http://traditionalrugs.blog.com/:

    Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this post.

    It was helpful. Keep on posting!

    Posted on February 25, 2014 at 12:38 am #
  13. From dimpho 4rm soshanguve:

    Angiyena umzulu kodwa defiantly love this thing umemulo. I also hv a dream of have one when I turn 21. My question is… Is it only for amazulu or I can do it even if angiyena umzulu?

    Posted on April 14, 2014 at 12:08 pm #
    • From THABANI:

      In sociology we learn about how culture travels between a people of different identities, origins and background. As part of either, inculturation,enculteration or acculturation, anyone may perform anyone else’s ceremony.

      My take on this is: Look at who surrounds you . What they like and how they see you. THink of the origins of your parents(both of them). Discuss it with you friends and family.

      From there on , you will know what is good for you.

      Unfortunately, unlike any other party, you don’t throw it yourself. the elders have to see that something in you and arrange the ceremony for yo.

      good luck

      Posted on November 19, 2014 at 2:26 pm #
  14. From Sello:

    I appreciate what u saying a lot guys in this confusion I have bt my stori is that m 26 yrs old,had miscarriage few yrz back,parents wants 2 do umhlonyane 4 me dan memulo can follow after sometime.Is ds possible? Mind u dey doing ds bcoz of deya delay and ancestors stl nid t

    Posted on May 18, 2014 at 3:49 am #
    • From THABANI:

      Hi Sello

      I guess this is way out of the theme of both ceremonies. However I can not rule against going on with the ceremonies.

      Umhlonyana is about the rite of passage or coming of age as others would prefer. This is where you are taught of how to treat and conduct yourself. It is necessary for adults to teach the young and acknowledge changes in their development.

      on the other hand, Umemulo is like thanks giving. It is no one’s responsibility. it is not a must. your parents would do it for you only if you they can afford and you behaved according to the societal norms and standards until you reached such an age.

      try finding out what the difference and similarity is or are regarding custom, culture , ritual, religion

      Posted on November 19, 2014 at 2:43 pm #
  15. From stheh:

    Hi thank u so much siyadinga ukwazi ngezinto ezifana nalezi njengoba kuyisiko lethu bt mina I just wanna ask ukuthi my parents babusiswa ngami kuphela intombazane and ngazigcina up until 21 bangaba nawo amandla okungenzela now senginabantwana and izinto zami azingihambeli kahle ngoba kukhaleleka memulo ngabe kuwrong yini njengoba sebezongemulisa manje in June.

    Posted on May 27, 2014 at 6:10 pm #
    • From Ayanda Ngcobo:

      Hi Sthe
      Ziyenzeka izinto ezikanjalo, mekukhaleke kuzomele wenzelwa. Usiko ukukhuliswa.

      Posted on May 30, 2014 at 11:51 am #
    • From THABANI:

      zihamba kanjani izinto manje Mbally?? Ngicabanga ukuthi zihamb kahle emuva komemulo.

      Ngicela ukulekelela lana ndodakazi. Usiko, inqubo, umkhuba, indlela akuyona into eyodwa. 1 usiko luthi alube yimpoqo kubantu abathile kodwa akunjalo. Kuthiwa wusiko ngoba kusuke kuyindlela yempilo yawo wonke umuntu waleso sizwe noma sizwana. inqubo kungaba yinto eniyenza emndenini noma esgodini kodwa ayilona isisko. umkhuba ungaba muhle noma ube mubi kodwa awulona isiko awuyona inqubo. kunezindlela esenza ngazo izinto kodwa aziwona amasiko, zibe zingeyona inqubo noma umkhuba.

      ake uzibuze ukuthi umemulo uyini kukho konke lokhu

      Posted on November 19, 2014 at 2:52 pm #
  16. From mbali:

    Hi, I’ll be turning 21 in June, my dad is from KZN and I’m a 1st born. Ekhaya bazongenzela uMhlonyane now in June then uMemulo in Dec. What I’d like to ask is ngizohlolwa manje ngo June ngibuye ngihlolwe futhi ngo Dec? Ngifuna nokwazi ukuthi ngihlolwa abantu abangakhi. I’m very particular about health and my body. I’m a proud Zulu girl and very fortunate to have parents who are willing to do all this for me. I love your site and it has kept me clued up. Keep it up sisi. Thanks

    Posted on June 4, 2014 at 9:01 am #
    • From Ayanda Ngcobo:

      Mbali, umuntu uhlolwa umuntu oyedwa, hhayi abaningi futhi abazali bakho abazonquma lokho. Mhlampe bazoxoxisana nawe ngalokhu, mhlampe ngeke basibone isidingo sokuthi uhlolwe. Kungenzeka uhlolwe kanje, now in June noma ungahlolwa nhlobo.

      Posted on June 18, 2014 at 2:24 pm #
    • From Ayanda Ngcobo:

      Mbali, ngicela ubuye usixoxele ukuthi kwenzeke njani.

      Posted on June 18, 2014 at 2:24 pm #
  17. From Sthembele:

    Kusho ukuthini ukuphupha umemulo

    Posted on June 21, 2014 at 10:43 am #
  18. From khanya:

    Guyz I’m glad tht I’ve heard interesting things about ur culture.I am Xhosa girl and I hv always a passion 2 knw about other cultures too

    Posted on August 3, 2014 at 11:33 am #
  19. From buyi:

    Hi guys I’m 24years old my parents were supposed to do umemulo for me when I was 21 azange baba namandla now bazongenzela next weekend I don’t have a child but I’m no longer a virgin so does that mean umhlwehlwe uzodabuka? I’m so scared

    Posted on December 9, 2014 at 8:54 am #
  20. From sindi:

    hello, buyi im in the same boat nje ngawe, manje mina ngifuna ukwazi ukuthi ngempela ngempela umhlwehlwe uyadabuka yini na uma ungasesiyona intombi? i was a virgim but broke my virginity at 23 years old ngoba sengicabanga ukuthi abazali bami amgeke besangemzela umemulo, manje ngina 24 abazali sebefuna ukungenzela, anginayo ingane

    Posted on February 23, 2016 at 6:48 pm #
    • From zinhle:

      Sawbona Sindi, nami ngisesmeni es’njengesakho. Ngina25 manje and I broke my virginity at 23 coz I though umemulo was no longer going to happen. Manje sebefuna ukungenzela abazali, ngoDec noma ngonyaka ozayo, and ngifuna ukwazi ukuthi icala yini ukngasho ukuthi I’m no longer a virgin and ngifuna ukwazi futhi how you ended up dealing with it wena? sebakwenzela yini umemulo? umhlwehlwe awuzange idabuke?

      Posted on October 15, 2017 at 9:38 am #
      • From ZAMA:

        Hi Zinhle,

        Memulo wami ugcine wenziwe ngo August 19 2017, mhlwehlwe wami wawungangeshidi indlela inkomo yayikhuluphele ngayo,Awuhlephukanga,ngangisindwa nje kuphela iwona. I have 3 kids (oyedwa was mis) and ngishadile. Konke kwahamba kahle nje.

        Posted on November 22, 2017 at 9:25 am #
  21. From Zama:

    Molweni bathandwa, I am 28 years of age with two kids and married, I was going to have umemulo before ngishade, so ngohlelo lwezinto kwangahamba kahle, Ngicela nje ukucaciseleka kahle hle, ngabe ikhone yini inkinga if ungagcina ungezniwanga umemulo, sengisho ngoba kwaxoxwa ngawo manje ngeke yini kuhambe kube nenkinga kwabaphansi?

    Posted on March 22, 2016 at 8:57 am #
  22. From Maria Dlamini:

    Hi all, thank you for the clarity about umamulo. I grew up thinking umamulo is performed for virgin girls only. I would if other culture has umamulo or is it for amazulu. Minangiwu ngiwi mswati by birth. I find umamulo very interesting and a very nice way for parents to thank their girls but it would be nice if bayahlolwa first before umamulo. Then we can truly appreciate a good thing. My thought

    Posted on March 2, 2017 at 1:36 pm #
  23. From Phumzile Nkosi:

    Sanibonani ngiyasithanda isihloko okukhulunywa ngaso ulwazi lungamandla.Bengicela ukwazi umehluko phakathi ko Mgonqo noMemulo nokuthi yini umhlonyane wenziwa nini?


    Posted on March 8, 2017 at 7:03 am #
  24. From Nthabiseng Nqobile:

    Hi ladies, im a little embarrased that im not a virgin anymore but i do not have a child. Im not saying this is an excuse for me but i grew up in a modern family whereby my virginity wasnt made a big deal. I really would love to have uMemulo though.

    Posted on March 13, 2017 at 11:49 am #
  25. From Thembeka Nondu::

    Hi everyone,I’M little confused about umemulo. I’M 18 years and my parents want to do for umemulo. Is there any problem to do it before the age of 21?

    Posted on May 30, 2017 at 4:12 pm #
  26. From Velenhle Ndlovu:

    What if now I want to do umemulo and I don’t believe in ancestors? I just want to do it because I am Zulu and I love my culture. How do I go about doing it? Do I wear umhlwehlwe or not? And how does the process of the ceremony go?

    Posted on March 19, 2018 at 9:44 pm #

      when memulo is performed I believe that a lady should wear umhlwehlwe to show pure/virginity now to those who already has children I don’t understand if they wear umhlwehlwe or not?, but the fact that they slaughter a cow means there should have umhlwehlwe unless its a 21st party not umemulo as it is different.

      Posted on July 30, 2018 at 7:52 am #
  27. From Nomaswazi:

    Hi,ngicela ukubuza uma umuliswa kwenzelwa amantombazane kuphela yini,isizathu esenza ngibuze ngine Ndodana ezokwenza 21 manje benifuna ukumenzela i21st ngiyihlanganise nesintu?

    Posted on April 18, 2018 at 8:26 am #
  28. From Michelle Banda:

    Hey everyone
    I’m turning 21 next year August, 7 still a virgin. looking forward to umemulo wami but i can’t seize to ignore the following questions. What then happens to girls with histories of sexual abuse? Who then performs this coming of age ceremony for the orphaned? Given a scenario that abantu abadala bomdeni bendela emathongeni? I’m also looking forward to write an article based on that .
    Any form of contribution will be accepted please contact me on michellebanda7@gmail.com or 0749536020

    Posted on March 12, 2019 at 9:35 am #

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