Ukukotiza 101: A Survival Guide For Makotis

Because ukukotiza never ends.
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While many of us are looking forward to some well-deserved rest this festive season, some amongst us -- omakoti, are already feeling quite anxious about the festive season.

Blame it on ukukotiza.

In African tradition, ukukotiza is an "induction period" into the world of marriage and its responsibilities, while the new bride gets acquainted with her in-laws. The process would normally involve the makoti performing "bridal duties" that are domestic in nature.

Ukukotiza, however, never ends. At family events like weddings and funerals, and during "big" holidays like Easter and Christmas, a makoti is expected to still perform those duties.

And while we can debate the tradition's pros, cons and relevance all day, it is still practised and expected to some degree by many families -- and that's how some of us will be spending part of this festive season.

So to cover you, we've compiled a basic survival guide for makotis-to-be, new makotis and old makotis alike -- who will kotiza in one way or another, this festive season.

1. Prepare yourself mentally

Accept that you may be out of your comfort zone, required to work harder than usual, and socially push yourself more than is normal.

2. Clarify beforehand what is "appropriate"

This depends on your in-laws. You want to be comfortable, but also "respectful". Some African families, for instance, are still rather strict about dress code -- preferring dresses and a doek.

Others may be fine with you dressing in whatever you're comfortable with, but may prefer that in the presence of extended family, you wear that skirt, or don that doek.

3. Don't start what you can't maintain

It is very easy to create expectations, particularly as a new makoti. It may be nerves, the desire to impress or just in our nature to, for example, wake up at dawn to prepare tea, make breakfast and wash dishes. This seemingly simple act might be expected the following day and the next. Similarly, bringing stokvel-level groceries may create an expectation that every time you get home, you will do the same. Not that this is wrong, but just be mindful (not paranoid) of the expectations.

3. Expect your husband to be "very much at home"

This is his comfort zone, with people he loves and who love him back, and people he probably feels he can truly be himself around. He may also at this time want to catch up with uncles, nephews and people he hasn't seen or physically interacted with in a while. It may seem like many people simply "want a piece" of him. Don't be offended.

5. Bring your essentials, if they are essential

For example, you may prefer cooking with different spices to your in-laws, or they may not have that knife that you feel chops best. Bring it with, just in case. Your own small essentials will also ease your comfort levels.

But more importantly, don't be too calculating -- show them love and find ways of enjoying your time with them. After all, they are also your people now.

*Disclaimer: Families and family dynamics differ, so this is by no means applicable or relevant to everyone.

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