Two 27-year-old South African men, Tshepo Cameron Modisane and Thoba Calvin Sithole, tied the knot Saturday in a ceremony that is being heralded as the nation's first gay wedding.
The couple was married in the town of KwaDukuza and stood before 200 guests as they exchanged their vows. On a continent that views homosexuality as vile lifestyle, both men were brave enough to proudly proclaim their love for one another in a public setting.
Modisane and Sithole met three years ago as students studying in Durban but then lost touch for a few months. They later bumped into each other at a gym and became fast friends, supporting each other during workouts. As their chemistry grew, the men soon realized that their relationship was moving past mere friendship.
According to Modisane, who spoke to Mamba Online, "The great step that we took in our relationship as a gay couple was introducing each other to our families. We are so blessed to have supportive families who care about us. Even though we are gay they still love us."
Last June, Modisane decided they should take their relationship an even step further, so he made the decision to propose to Sithole, who accepted. Marriage between homosexuals is legal in South Africa and has been for six years. The two discussed having a ceremony that would fall along the lines of their traditions and customs.
"We communicated our intentions to get married to both our families as we wanted to have a traditional African ceremony and also have a traditional Western 'fairytale white wedding,'" Sithole told Mamba Online. The date of April 6 was set for the ceremony.
The men want to stand as inspirational role models for others who are gay. "We see no reason to hide in darkness as if there is something to be ashamed about. Our marriage is largely symbolic and a sign that black gay men can commit and build family through a happy and loving marriage," Modisane says.
Sithole adds, "This is who we are and we are just tired of people judging with no understanding. We are people and entitled to live life to the fullest."
Modisane, who is Tswana, and Sithole, who is Zulu, dressed in their respective customary grab for the wedding which turned into a cause celebre. After the grooms exchanged vows, the festivities that followed included traditional dancing, and the ritual of sacrificing a cow to honor the men's ancestors. There was also an exchange of gifts between the couple's families.
The couple, who plan to have their white wedding later in the year in Johannesburg, want to have children and will be using a surrogate to make it happen. "Family is important to us and that is the number one reason why we want to have children. We also want our children to grow up in an environment where they are loved greatly by both parents who appreciate them," Sithole told Mamba Online.