The symbolic wedding ceremony was held in celebration of Diversity Week. It was the fourth and final ceremony in a series of scripted weddings that took place from Tuesday with one event being held at each of UJ’s four campuses.
The ceremony started as a heterosexual wedding as the bride walked down the aisle to Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years. This was after the crowd demanded to see her by chanting ‘uphi umakoti’ (where is the bride?).
Spectators were ululating and singing as the nuptials progressed. But things took a drastic turn when the officiant, Anthony Brown, asked if there were any objections to the union. That is when a loud angry voice shouted from the crowd in disapproval. It was Halala, the groom’s long-time boyfriend.
“You have betrayed me,” Halala said to the bride. “You know Dumisane is my lover and we have been together for long, yet you still agreed to marry him.”
The student who played the bride tried to explain herself to an enraged Halala saying that the groom was afraid of what people were going to say about him being gay.
Halala refuted her claims and insisted that they (him and the groom) get married instead as he marched onto the stage. The crowd cheered and applauded him for his bravery saying he should take what was his.
Dr Anthony Brown, who is a diversity specialist at the Faculty of Education, said he agreed to officiate the wedding because he was a queer man himself.
“I am advocating for diversity and social justice, and it is through visibility and awareness that people can understand,” Brown said of the elaborate statement against homophobia.
Brown told spectating students that they should be accepting of their fellow students. “We are here and it is okay because we ride along with you in the same campus. Respect us, embrace us and support as we support you,” he said.
The performance and its message were well received by the audience. “The wedding was beautiful and exciting, the couple was looking so gorgeous,” said Mandy Plane, a student at UJ.
“I believe that all ignorant people should learn from this wedding as love is love and it has nothing to do with gender if you love somebody go for them and forget about society,” she added.
The duo was definitely the centre of attention as the groom dazzled in his navy-blue suit with a plain white shirt. His partner wore a white top paired with a black blazer that had a dramatic train. Halala finished his look with a traditional leopard print headband.
The crowd exploded with excitement as the couple sealed the new marriage with a kiss and danced together in celebration.
The groom, Dumisane Tshabalala, thanked the institution for their support and for making them a part of the initiative.
“UJ has made us feel at home; we have been included in everything that has been done this year. We feel like people are learning and understanding and it is all thanks to UJ,” said Tshabalala.
The symbolic ceremony offered a unique twist to the 15th annual International Festival event that usually celebrates cultural and ethnic diversity. The wedding celebrated the diversity of sexuality and the right for the LGBTI community not to be ashamed of who they are.
The ceremony was made possible by UJ’s Transformation Unit and the LGBTI society at UJ in partnership with the Division For Internationalisation that included it in the day’s programme.