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December 20, 2004

Deaf Couple Celebrates 50 Years in Marriage

From: - Africa - Dec 20, 2004

The Monitor (Kampala)

By Agnes Asiimwe

Mr Andrew Kawooya couldn't find a bride when he was in his 20s and ready to marry because most women turned down offers from a deaf man.

But not Ms Perepetwa Kulabako. She knew about his problem and married him anyway. He didn't learn until their wedding day that she knew about deafness from first hand experience.

That was 50 years ago.

Last Sunday, with loving relatives and happy neighbours, the couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary at their home in Lubira in Mityana.

Bishop Joseph Zziwa of Mityana Diocese presided, telling the crowd that Kawooya and his wife "should be a good example to everyone to learn to be patient with one another".

Kawooya, clad in a white kanzu and a jacket, and Kulabako in a white bridal gown, stood before the congregation, happiness and gratitude visible on their faces.

Kulabako, who had earlier agreed with the family that she would wear a gomesi come D Day, changed her mind shortly before midnight on Saturday and asserted in sign language that she wanted a gown like the one she wore on her wedding day. Family members rushed to comply and found her that gown, just hours before the anniversary celebration.

"Whatever is going on here, what I'm saying, the music that is playing, they do not hear," said the bishop, reminding everyone of the couple's hearing malfunction. "This should be a good example to everyone, to learn to be patient with one another."

Andrew Kawooya was born in 1931, fourth in a family of seven. When his siblings started going to school, he stayed behind. But he told his parents that he too wanted to study.

There were no schools for the deaf then, so he went to Busuubizi Demonstration School and he stayed until he learned to read and write. But teachers didn't know how to deal with a deaf student and fellow pupils never stopped teasing him. So he eventually quit.

On his own, he learned to build and earn his own living. He has worked at many seminaries including Kisubi, and he built the house that he lives in with his wife - a nice permanent house with power and running water inside.

When he hit the 20s, like any other man at the time, Kawooya wanted a wife. With the help of a family friend, Mr Donoziyo Mayanja, his parents launched a search for a nice young woman.

According to Mr Emmanuel Kibirige, his older brother, it wasn't easy. Most girls turned down the proposal. Until they learned about Perepetwa, a girl from Mawokota.

The two liked each other when they met. But for some strange reason, Kawooya didn't realise she too had been born without hearing ability until their wedding day when he saw people talking to her through sign language.

That was August 12, 1954, in Mitala Maria on Masaka Road.

At 73, Kawooya is tall and wiry with an expressionless face. He clapped when he saw others clapping, and never missed making the sign of the cross during the prayers.

Kulabako never went to school and has been a housewife, digging and making handicrafts. At 70, she is dark, strong and beautiful. An expressive woman, she thumps her chest when expressing love.

She hugged guests and grinned when they stepped up to congratulate her.

Her husband only broke into a broad smile when his nephews came pushing a new bicycle. It was his wedding anniversary present.

One of the speakers at the function said the couple made 50 years together because they do not have the vocabulary to quarrel.

However, Kibirige said they too have their misunderstandings. "When Perepetwa's voice rises and she starts throwing many gestures, then you know she is quarrelling." But they always reach a compromise.

Deafness has not been the worst handicap they faced together. The couple could not have children.

They consulted many doctors but Kulabako could not conceive. Friends and family once got Kawooya another woman to bear him children, but he refused to take her, and stayed with his Petwa. They are devoted Catholics and they placed their fate and faith in God's hands.

Fortunately, they have nieces and nephews whom they love and treat like their own children. These are the people who made their golden jubilee a success.

After the church service, the couple freshened up, with Kulabako returning in a blue gomesi. They both appeared more relaxed.

After a sumptuous meal, a cake was unveiled. As the knife sunk into the cake, the song Congratulations played loudly though not loudly enough for the couple in whose honour it played.

The music to their ears were the smiling faces and fervent clapping of relatives, friends and in-laws.

Copyright © 2004 The Monitor. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (