Marriage and ilobolo [Bridewealth] in contemporary Zulu Society
We investigate links between the practice of ilobolo [bridewealth] and marriage outcomes in contemporary Zulu society. We present quantitative data which describe very low marriage rates particularly among Zulu adults, and which suggest also that the majority of Zulu adults identify ilobolo as a constraint to marriage. We use qualitative interview data to probe attitudes to marriage and ilobolo. Although most Zulu people we interviewed acknowledge material ‘abuse’ and commercialization in the practice of ilobolo, our interviews affirm also that ilobolo remains widely valued as a Zulu tradition and that it continues to be an integral and defining feature of a Zulu marriage. We suggest that this tension, between the high cost of ilobolo and respect for ilobolo as a custom, contributes to the very low marriage rates observed among Zulu people today.