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AFRICAN MARRIAGE

The Single most important ritual in African culture

A man without a wife is like a vase without flowers. - African Proverb

African weddings are a family affair and involve the combining of two lives, two families, and sometimes even two communities! There are many different wedding traditions in the African continent and no two are exactly alike. However, in all the communities the bride plays a very special role and is treated with respect because she is a link between the unborn and the ancestors. A bride might eventually bear a very powerful child, so she is treated with respect. In some areas of East Africa the grooms family would even move to the brides village and set up a whole new house there. There are many steps that take place before marriage starting at a very young age where training takes place in how to be a suitable partner. Girls will many times go to circumcision schools where women teach them what is involved in marriage, and in some ethnic groups even learn secret codes and languages so that they can communicate with other married women. In the Wolof people there is even a time where the elders of the village gather with the bride and give advice and gifts. Weddings can be very elaborate, involving feasting and dancing for days within a community, they can be very simple, or they can even be performed in huge marriage ceremonies involving many different couples.

POLGAMY IN AFRICA

Polygamy has always been a feature of the world. In Africa pologamy expressed itself in the Jewish, Islamic and other native traditions. In all systems there were strict laws which protected the womens position in this traditional African system. Esther Stanford on Polygamy Polygamy became taboo with Colonialism due to the conflict with inheritance in large families, the social-economic threat caused by increased African populations and the Eurocentric Christian values. However today polygamy is still a reality and is becoming an option in the African Diaspora in response to a social dilemma. Polygamy within the framework of law and balance is a viable aspect of African family systems which is exited from Kemet to Sokoto. President Bashir of Sudan stated that the undeniable relationship between development and population increase (as clear with China and India) and openly encourages polygamy to allow increased development. This seems contrary to Western advisors who encourage Africans to decrease their populations, but ironically these same experts argue for an increase in Europe's population and are deeply concerned with the social-economic consequences of decreasing birth rates in the Western world. Some African advocates of polygamy see it as an aspect of a needed paradigm shift where Africans revisit their traditional practices which worked for thousands of years. Thus mentally throwing off colonial imposed taboos.

African Wedding Cultural Traditions Ethiopia In Ethiopia the Karo people enhance a young brides beauty by tattooing her abdomen with different symbols. Amhara people: most marriages are negotiated by the two families, with a civil ceremony sealing the contract. A priest may be present. Divorce is allowed and must also be

negotiated. There is also a "temporary marriage," by oral contract before witnesses. The woman is paid housekeeper's wages, and is not eligible for inheritance, but children of the marriage are legally recognized and qualify for inheritance. Priests may marry but not eligible for divorce or remarriage. Kenya The Massai people of Kenya grow up with children of their own age and normally form relationships with these people. However, in marriage women are given to a man they do not know who is much older then themselves. The bride packs all her belongings and is dressed in her finest jewelry. At the marriage ceremony the father of the bride spits on the brides head and breasts as a blessing and then she leaves with her husband walking to her new home she never looks back fearing that she will turn to stone. This can be a very sad experience for the bride, who is 13-16 years old and may walk a long way to get to her new house. In order to ward off bad luck sometimes the women of the grooms family will even insult the bride. The Swahili of Kenya bathe brides in sandalwood oils and tatoo henna designs on her limbs. A women elder, or somo, gives instructions to the bride on how to please her husband. Sometimes the somo will even hide under the bed in case there are any problems! In a small city called Lamu, situated outside the coast of Kenya, lives a group of Swahili Muslims. In this community the weddings can be going on for a whole week with a lot of festivities consisted of singing, dancing and food. But these festivities are celebrated separate for men and women. After the "real" wedding the bride is shown in public, with a so-called, kupamba. This ceremony is always taking place the evening after the wedding and it is the grand finale of the passage rite, in which the young bride enters the married womens world. Today this particularly ceremony has become more in focus than some years ago when the kuinngia ndani (the entry) was the main attraction. It is a ceremony when the groom is walking down the streets to meet his bride and then complete first phase of the wedding. The kupamba has become more popular of various reasons, but the main reason is the fact that it is an opportunity for women to meet and have a good time without their husbands. When the enter this party they all take off their black veils and underneath they have beautiful dresses and wonderful haircuts etc. Another problem with this kupamba is that many families almost ruin themselves just to be able to have this party for their daughters. The musicians and food cost plenty of money. Sometimes the mother of the bride, female relatives and neighbours have to help out with the food and devote themselves to make the food some days before the ceremony. In another area of Kenya the main feature of the wedding is the kupamba, which happens the night after the wedding, it is basically a display of the bride. It is very popular because it is a party just for the women, and when they enter the party they are able to take off their large veils and show off elaborate hairstyles and dresses. The party can almost become a competition because it is believed that if a women has a good husband he will get her beautiful jewelry and clothes. For the Samburu people marriage is a unique series of elaborate ritual. Great importance

is given to the preparation of gifts by the bridegroom (two goatskins, two copper earrings, a container for milk, a sheep) and of gifts for the ceremony. The marriage is concluded when a bull enters a hut guarded by the bride's mother, and is killed. Namibia The Himba people of Namibia kidnap a bride before the ceremony and dress her in a leather marriage headdress. After the ceremony she is brought into the house where the family tells her what her responsibilities will be as the wife and then anoint her with butterfat from cows. This shows that she has been accepted into the family. Niger The Wodabee of Niger court their cousins for marriage. The male cousins wear powerful amulets which are supposed to heighten their attractiveness to the girl. Wodaabe are often polygamous Marriages are either arranged by parents when the couple are infants (called koogal), or they can be because of love and attraction (called teegal). The family of the groom gives a bride price to the bride's family and then they are married. A bride stays with her husband until she becomes pregnant after which she returns to her mother's home, where she will remain for the next three to four years. She will deliver the baby at her mother's home and then she becomes a boofeydo which literally means, "someone who has committed an error." During the time of being a boofeydo, she is not permitted to see or speak with her husband. It is a cultural sin for him to express any interest in her or the newborn child. After two to three years, her mother will release her to visit her husband, but she still will not be permitted to live with him or bring the child with her until the woman's mother can purchase everything that is needed for her home. Once these items are purchased, she is allowed to go and live with her husband, taking her child with her.

Nigeria

In Nigeria, in west Africa, a husband never uses his wifes name. Only relatives and the women's own children are allowed to use the name her father gave her and it is only unmarried girls who may be called by name. So to learn a married womans name, one have to ask her husband the name of her father, and use that. When a couple are about to get married in this community people sing to inform that the bride is bound and is brought to the young man. Singing and dancing are two very important fragments in the Nigerian weddings and they are always combined with a big feast. The bride is keept in a special hut where she stays till he is let inside. But first he has to give chicken and tobacco to the guest and when all have got this the bride groom is let inside the bridess hut and the marrige is announced. Next day a goat is killed for the bride and the blood is poured over the threshold of the hut. and the brides mother asks her daughter if she is pleased with the groom. After this the dancing starts again and the drums call make visitors come and they give the bride a penny to see her face and another penny for camwood to rub her body. In Nigeria marriage is seen as a bound between blood relations and are considered as very important.

Today the old traditional weddings are changing and are becoming more like the Western-style church weddings. This has more or less become norm in Nigeria today. Eventhough you are born and raised in Nigeria it is still likely to have a Western-style wedding when you are getting married. And the wedding is usually with a church ceremony with a white bride and a reception after the ceremony. The reason behind this can be the Nigerian Church and the missionaries who influenced the Church and the African groups. But there are some in Nigeria who still live after the old traditions and are preforming the tradtioally wedding ceremonies. The first step in the wedding process is the first meeting with the both involving families where they investigate each other. At this occation they groom's family donate some gifts to the bride's family, consisting mostly of cattles, yams or money. After this the ceremony the bride comes to live with the groom and his family, and if that turns out to work out a weddingfeast is held. After thet ceremonial feast he bride is concidered married to the groom and his family. During the reception bride couples usually wear traditional clothes have traditional food and a combination of US and traditional music. Here two diffrent cultures are meeting and this is something that has become more common in the Nigerian weddings today. The Western societies are influencing the African societies with the traditional Western wedding norms with white dresses, receptions etc.

The bride should be a virgin befor the actual wedding, but today there are exceptions. Pregancy outside of marriage is considered shameful. Polygamy marriages exist and are legal in Nigeria, but again the Christian religion forbids it. Pologamy marriages have though become less common in today's Nigeria. This is due to the fact that a man in such a marriage is responsible to provide for his family and to provide for a family is expensive. Because of the economical situation in Nigeria it has become less common with polygamy marriages.

Sudan The Neur people of southern Sudan the groom must pay 20-40 cattle, the marriage is completed only after the wife has born 2 children. If the wife only bears one child and the husband asks for a divorce he can also ask for either the return of the cattle or the first child. Divorce therefore is very difficult. Another interesting fact is that if a husband dies then the husbands family must provide a brother to the widow and any children born to the brother are considered the deceased's children.

"A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself." - El Hajj Malik Shabazz