NO BRIDES IN THE PARK ....          - 10/4/2007      <--Prev : Next-->


The Centenary Park at Bulawayo has been for many years, the most popular rendezvous for couples to assemble for their wedding photographs to be taken.

Having lived all my life just past the park, up Selborne Avenue (lately Leopold Takawira Avenue)I must have seen hundreds of happy wedding photographic forays take place.

One most popular backdrop has been the fountain which was surrounded by verdant green grass, spectacular purple petria bushes, elegant palms and beautiful formal gardens.

The bridal parties would stop off at the park between the church ceremony and the reception, and happily pose en famille for half an hour or so while the thirsty guests would wait impatiently for their arrival when the festivities could begin !!

Dozens, nay hundreds, thousands of couples, now scattered all over the world, have wedding albums featuring the famous Bulawayo Centenary park as the backdrop to the beginnings of their years of connubial bliss.

The park would boast banks of cannas, rows of agapanthas, mountains of dahlias, baskets and beds overflowing with geraniums, Barberton daisies and marigolds.

One favourite Kodak moment spot was the quaint little circular gazebo where the RAR Band would play on a Sunday morning, way back in bygone days.

The gazebo was artfully decorated with colonial broekie lace and it it make a most romantic backdrop for lovely young brides, draped in yards of tulle and spectacular bridal gowns lovingly made of Italian guipure lace and finished off with the obligatory diamante tiara.

Bob Hardman was the person in charge of the park for many years and under his loving care, our park would feature frequently in tourist guides and articles on the City Of Kings, as Bulawayo is known to this day.

As the park sadly became less and less cared for, water became a problem, it has become unkempt and ugly. However the area around the fountain still attracts wedding parties but to a much lesser extent.

Nowadays there is very little guipure lace to be seen, but the colonial habit lives on and modern brides love to assemble there with their retinues. African tradition has it that one must have in attendance, at least seven bridesmaids, an equal number of matrons of honour and even a tiny young replica bride for some customary reason !!

Bridal parties from the fifties right up until the nineties, when money was plentiful in Zimbabwe, tried their hardest to outdo each other in the number of attendants !! Colours too became the in thing with a vast retinue of attendees in violets, crimsons, tangerines or turquoises !!

The groomsmen and best men too wore all manner of top hats and tail coats with matching pocket hankies and cravats.

Friday mornings in recent years, were the most popular days when couples had stopped off at the Registry office to make their vows and then car loads of wedding supporters, balloons festooning every possible crevasse and cranny of posh cars, would stream down to the park for pikkies.

Mercedes, Rolls Royce, Pajeros, limos and even a London Taxi were begged borrowed or purloined for the occasion and sales of ribbon trim soared....

Nowadays however the park is ominously quiet.

The photographers still mass there hoping for a commission, but there is no longer any money for a fancy wedding.

One occasionally comes across a much smaller wedding party, with one or two bridesmaids, but those days of lavish entertaining are now far behind us.

The park too gets grimmer and grimmer, pity any hapless tourist who makes his way there on foot to feast his eyes on what his copy of "Zimbabwe on a Dollar a Day " promises !!

The grass is high and dry, the fountain works sporadically. 80% of the population is unemployed and 75% of them are sleeping in despair on the once green and manicured lawns.

When will this madness end ?