‘‘Snapshots of a Wedding’’ was published in 1977 in The Collector of Treasures and Other Botswana Village Tales, Bessie Head’s first collection of short fiction. Though this particular story has not received a great deal of critical attention, Head’s short stories are well known for their portrayal of African village life and its traditions and customs. Head presents in her stories a world that is as rich in conflict and oppression, however, as it is in tradition.
‘‘Snapshots of a Wedding’’ focuses on the wedding of Neo, a young educated woman living in an African village, and Kegoletile, a young man ‘‘rich in cattle.’’ Kegoletile has impregnated both Neo and another woman, but can marry only one of them. The second woman, Mathata, is old-fashioned in her lack of education and contentment with village life. Neo, by contrast, is a ‘‘new’’ woman: well-educated and anxious to embark on a career that will allow her to improve her economic situation. Neo is also arrogant, proud of her education, and often condescending toward others, who accordingly resent her. The differences between these two women comprise the story’s major conflict. Though Kegoletile plans to marry Neo, he continues to find himself attracted to Mathata. He must choose between a happiness whose cost is the sacrifice of advancement, and an economic progress whose cost is the likely sacrifice of marital happiness and tradition.
‘‘Snapshots of a Wedding’’ is a succinct account of the wedding day of Kegoletile and Neo, a young man and woman who live in a small African village. It is also an account of the circumstances surrounding their wedding. The story begins with a description of the dawn of the wedding day and of the figures stirring who are to be a part of that day: ‘‘ululating’’ women, an ox who does not realize that he is to be slaughtered, and the four men who tend to him. For all of these signifiers that point to a traditional village wedding, the wedding that is to take place this day is anything but traditional, as is revealed by the comment of one of the villagers:
‘‘This is going to be a modern wedding.’’ He meant that a lot of the traditional courtesies had been left out of the planning for the wedding day; no one had been awake all night preparing diphiri or the traditional wedding breakfast of pounded meat and samp; the bridegroom said he had no church and did not care about such things; the bride was six months pregnant and showing it, so there was just going to be a quick marriage ceremony at the police camp.
‘‘Oh, we all have our own ways,’’ one of the bride’s relatives joked back. ‘‘If the times are changing, we keep up with them.’’ And she weaved away ululating joyously.
The narrator turns from this hint at the story’s central conflict between tradition...
(The entire section is 532 words.)