OPINION | There is nothing wrong with how Babes is mourning

13 January 2023 - 07:00
By Joy Mphande
Bongekile 'Babes Wodumo' Simelane during the memorial of her husband Mamndla 'Mampintsha' Maphumulo at EThekwini Community Church in Durban.
Image: SANDILE NDLOVU Bongekile 'Babes Wodumo' Simelane during the memorial of her husband Mamndla 'Mampintsha' Maphumulo at EThekwini Community Church in Durban.

Many cultures have their own rituals and customs that influence the expression of grief, but there are some people who choose to colour outside the lines.

A case in point is Babes Wodumo who ruffled a few feathers with the way she chose to publicly conduct herself after her husband Mampintsha died of a minor stroke on December 24.

The gqom sensation had mourners at Mampintsha's memorial cheering when she stood up to dance to her partner's song Ngeke, and had the congregation at the funeral in laughter instead of tears when she disclosed her partner never gave her the password to his phone. 

Just hours after laying Mampintsha to rest, Babes performed at the SABC's Last Dance 2022 event in Pietermaritzburg, and has been working ever since. 

It got many in an uproar.

At the beginning of this week, trolls online shunned Babes' apparent threat to share content from Mampintsha's phone, after she finally gained access. 

Some argued on social media that Babes needed to take time off and properly mourn her husband. Mampintsha's mother and sister also raised eyebrows at Babe's social media activity.

What these critics forget is that mourning practices are meant to bring comfort to mourners, not become a Bible on how to act.

What if this is what is comforting to her? Does it have to make sense to the public? Why is Babes Wodumo being policed by strangers who had no idea how the married couple conducted themselves behind closed doors?

Typically a chief mourner sits on a mattress with family members or friends until the funeral then, after burying their spouse, they wear mourner's clothing for six months to a year. 

These customs that were followed many moons ago and still happen today are seemingly what tweeps expected from Babes: for her to lay low and grieve in the way that is conventional to them. 

It's 2023, so why shouldn't a mourner be allowed to decide how they move on from their loss?

A news flash for someone still stuck in the past, still envisioning the scroll with the rules they themselves fail to follow: people are actually allowed to mourn differently, it's a thing.

There have been many celebrities who have returned to work after their partner's death.

Connie Ferguson returned six weeks after the death of her husband Shona Ferguson to fulfil her promise to keep his legacy alive. So did actress Simz Ngema who freely expressed her grief on social media after the death of Dumi Masilela. Letshego Zulu wrote about the grief of losing her husband, race car driver Gugu Zulu, two years later in I Choose To Live: Life After Losing Gugu.

So why do people feel entitled to have strong opinions about the way Babes goes about mourning her husband?

Could it be the type of relationship the public witnessed the pair have? Or because Babes was widowed at a young age?  

Babes' sister told me how Mampintsha always wanted Babes to continue living her life, even after his passing. The Maphumulo family reportedly reaffirmed his wish, hence there have been instances where the family supported her by transporting her to work or tuning in to watch her perform.

I have witnessed the standard of wearing black 'as a sign of respect' at funerals change as people move towards wearing white or any other colour they see fit. So why can't people apply the same thinking when it comes to how people mourn their loved ones? 

I remain hopeful that we can make some progress.

Why can't we all agree that as we evolve as human beings, so can our culture.

Perhaps then we can be relieved of burdening each other with practices that we might not understand or ascribe to personally.