Welcome to March’s newsletter all Prayer for Africa warriors.
This month we will on a lighter note explore the rich culture of the African people from east to west, central to south. And for this purpose we have decided to explore traditional African wedding rites.
All across Africa, traditional cultural weddings are dying out with the influx and normalization of the so-called White Western wedding. The sample below is to show the richness and importance of continuing African weddings and halting the culturally destructive practice of aping the traditions of the West.
The union of man and woman is a celebration of the natural continuity of life. Marriage is the only known incubator for the raising of balanced socially functional children. 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. In some areas of East Africa the grooms family would even move to the brides village and set up a whole new house there.
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. The Wedding procedure starts with the grooms side sending a representative who request the marriage between the parties. Then an appointment is given and a verdict on the marriage is given. Before the wedding the Dowry is given as agreed. On the wedding day the groom and three or four “bestmen” go to the wife’s house. At the house the ladies family and friendscermonially block the entrance to the house. The associates must sing strongly and force their way into the house. The first bestman holds perfume and sprays everywhere inside the house. The brides family sing songs . Christian marriages, mainly in Tigray and Amhara regions, are often arranged by the parents of the bride and groom with a great deal of negotiation. According to tradition and culture the bride must be a virgin when the marriage takes place. Because the bride virginity is highly valued and a matter of pride in a Christian marriage, with the whole family being shamed if the bride is not virgin at marriage.
The Ghanaian marriage ceremony is a traditional ceremony where the groom accompanied by his family formally asks for the bride’s hand in marriage in the presence of family, friends and well wishers. The traditional ceremony is a necessary common rite of marriage for all Ghanaian couples. In Ghana today, some couples perform this alone as a marriage ceremony, however, most couples also go on to perform the western wedding in a church in addition to the traditional marriage ceremony.
The marriage ceremony starts with the “knocking” (kokooko) on the door ceremony. In the knocking ceremony the groom, along with his father and some elder members of the family visits the brideshouse to announce their marriage intentions. Often times this ceremony is performed a week or two before the actual marriage ceremony. The knocking (“kookooko”) is derived from the Ghanaian tradition of knocking on at the entrance of a house before entering as a visitor. For the knocking ceremony the groom’s family brings along two bottles of alcoholic drinks, some money and colanuts to the house to be presented to the bride’s family. In the past, and to date, the drinks are used to pour libation. (Libation is a traditional form of prayer to the ancestral spirits and God). When the drinks are presented, a designated spokesman from the grooms delegation formally asks the bride’s family for permission to enter the house and announce their intentions. If the drinks are accepted then it means permission has been granted to the visitors to state their intentions. The spokes person will then explain in the most lyrical language, that the groom, has seen a “beautiful flower” in the house of the bride’s family that he desires and would like to “uproot” that flower, not steal, from its keeper, hence they are here to ask for the brides hand in marriage and inquire about what is required in order to make that flower his own.
Once the intentions are announced, the bride’s family may ask the groom and his family to come back at a set later date during which the bride’s family will investigate the grooms family background further to see :
a) if the family has no chronic illness or genetic disabilities in the family
b) if family has a good reputation, that is no immediate family member such as a sibling, an aunt or uncle is known to be a thief, prostitute or murderer
c) if the groom has no illegitimate children or has another marriage elsewhere etc.
d) if the groom is of good character and well matched to the bride
Often times the background inquiry is made when the bride’s family knows nothing or knows little of the groom’s family. If they are satisfied and pleased with what they find out, they will send a list of things to the groom and his family to provide before they can marry the bride.
On the set date the groom and his family, along with invited guests show up early at the bride’s house. The groom’s family sits on one side, while the other bride’s family sits on the other side facing each other. Elders from both families begin the marriage ceremony with a prayer and introductions. The groom’s family begins by presenting the dowry and all the other items on the list one, by one. At each stage, the items are checked to make sure everything asked on the list is being presented. Negotiation is possible if the groom’s family feels too much is being asked of them. The bride is not present in all of these proceedings. The groom, although present, does not speak at all of these proceedings as all the speaking and negotiation is done on his behalf by the designated spokes person from his family.
Once everything has been presented to the bride’s family, the bride would then be brought into the gathering. Because a decoy can be used to “tease” the groom, the groom is asked to verify if this is indeed his bride. Once he confirms, she is asked three times by her father if she agrees to marrying the groom. She is asked if they should accept the dowry and accompanying gifts from the groom’s family. When she agrees, then the groom will slide the ring onto her fingers and kiss and hug her. An elder presents a bible to both the groom and bride as a symbol of how important religion should be in their married life. Prayers are said and blessings are given. The married couple is now congratulated and each elder in the room offers marriage advice to the new couple. Once all of this is done there is a huge celebration reception where food & drinks are served. There is lots of music and dancing till nightfall.
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 than themselves. The bride packs all her belongings and is dressed in her finest jewellery. 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 groom’s 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 women’s world. Today this particularly ceremony has become more in focus than some years ago when the kuinngiandani (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 they 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 jewellery 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.
Thousands of Zulu virgins converge at the Enyokeni Zulu Royal Palace in September every year to celebrate the UmkhosiwoMhlanga (Reed Dance Festival). The Reed dance is an activity that promotes purity among virgin girls and respect for young women. The festival is part of the annual festivities on the calendar of the Zulu nation. During the Reed dance the virgins fetch the reeds from the river and bring them to the palace for the royal king, King Goodwill Zwelithini to inspect.
During the Reed dance the virgins fetch the reeds from the river and bring them to the palace for the royal king, King Goodwill Zwelithini to inspect.It was during this festival that the Zulu King chose his youngest wife. To many, this ceremony helps to preserve the custom of keeping girls as virgins until they get married. And in a nation ravaged by loose morals and HIV/AIDS it is a cultural buffer which holds back loose morality and promiscuity, thus giving women power over their bodies and thus self-respect and dignity.
Tswana Marriage Customs The Tswana (Setswana) speaking people of Botswana and South Africa have a marriage ceremony which begins with a delegation from the groom’s side approaching the bride’s side in an elaborate ceremony which takes place early in the morning. The delegation which comprise of an even number of men and women enter the compound of the bride’s family. The women carry part of the dowry or lobolla on their heads and proceed into the compound crawling on their knees. The male delegation approaches one of the several gathers of men which are representing the bride. These men are in one or more groups at the fire. There is a ceremonial air of tension. When the party at the fire greet the groom’s delegation they only reply with a rubble acknowledgment. They deliver gifts such as whisky and also a sheep which is to be slaughtered for the celebration to follow. The women wait on their knees and the bride’s party calls them “enemies” and ceremonially treat them with a slight contempt because they are there to take a member of their family away.
The lobolla consist of blankets (always), undergarments, and other useful things which is delivered and inspected by the bride’s representatives. By the fire the men discuss at length the lobolla and negotiate and sing praises of the husband to be. In modern times money replaces cows and R6000 (South African Rand) may represent one cow. Thus a typical dowry could be 10 cows, i.e. R60,000 After the negotiations are completed the entire delegation enters the house and is accommodated with refreshments. All parties return to their home and return later in the day for a lavish celebration and a meal. The bride’s parties are expected to give a sheep as a return offering, but in modern times for practicality sometimes money is used to represent this gift. In some Tswana culture the man purchases a bed which is pre-delivered to the bride’s family house. He must remain there until he can provide a house for his new wife. He is expected everyday to vacate the property at 03:00 in the morning and avoid being seen by any of his in-laws. This is said to encourage him to provide a new home for his new family.
The Zulu wedding takes many shapes and forms. Usually the bride changes more than three times on her wedding day, showing off to her in-laws how beautiful she is in different colors. Although it is not a Zulu custom for the bride to wear the white wedding gown, nowadays brides prefer to do so. The wedding takes place at the church, and during this time the bride is dressed in white. After church the wedding occurs at the bridegroom’s home. The bride changes into traditional outfit. During the traditional wedding the parties from the bride and the groom’s side compete through Zulu dance and songs. During this ceremony the family of the groom slaughters a cow to show that they accept the bride in their home. The bride puts money inside the stomach of the cow while the crowd looks on. This is a sign that she is now part of the family. The wedding ceremony ends with the bride giving gifts in the form of blankets to her new family, including the extended family. This tradition is called ukwaba. Even the long-deceased family members receive gifts and are represented by the living ones. The family cover themselves with the blankets in an open area where everybody will see. The spectators ululate, sing, and dance for the family.
Traditional Wolof wedding ceremonies, the parents of the groom-to-be sends elders to the girl’s parents with kola nuts and money to ask for her hand in marriage. The girl’s parents consult their daughter and either consent to or reject the proposal. If accepted, the parents of the bride to be distribute the kola nuts among the family and neighbours. This distribution is an informal way of announcing the impending wedding. In more traditional practices, the groom to be’s family paid the girl’s bride price in the form of money. This tradition, has been modernized and dowry is paid in money, cars or even houses. After the completion of the groom’s obligations, the two families set a wedding day. Before the wedding day, the groom’s family gives a party to welcome their daughter-in-law and to prepare her to live with her new family. The imam and elders advise the groom with the presence of the some representatives of the bride’s parents. Weddings traditionally take place at the groom’s home. Parents receive guests with food and drink (but not alcohol), while guests bring gifts of money, rice, drinks, ships, sugar, or spices. After the ceremony people feast and dance with guests hiring a griot (praise-singer) and giving further gifts to the groom’s parents. The girl moves to the husband’s (or his parent’s) home or compound, bringing utensils for cooking which she buys with the money from the bride price.
The marriage customs of the Shona people of Zimbabwe is a process of several months. Roora, the same as South Africa’s lobola is paid in a similar fashion to South Africa and Botswana. The bride however, decides when to go to her husband. She goes at night, with her female relatives escorting her. The day she chooses is a surprise to the groom. She is covered in white from head to toe so that no one can see her. As she walks into the village, his family starts dancing and ululating (to howl or wail, in grief or in jubilation). They also begin to prepare an impromptu party. The groom is found and told that his bride has arrived. The surprise is to see how the groom’s family reacts to an emergency. The bride, covered, walks through the whole village, taking her time. The villagers, all related to the groom, encourage her to keep on walking. They flatter her. They throw money at her feet and they sing songs about how happy they are that their people will live on because the bride has agreed to have babies for their son. She is eventually escorted into her mother in law’s home where she is encouraged to take off her veil with gifts and pleadings. That is when the family gets to see their daughter in law for the first time. A big party of dancing, and drinking begins all night long into the morning.
Hope you enjoyed the ride around Africa.
Prayer Points for you to consider this month:
- Pray for an orderly election and a God ordained capable person to win the elections in Nigeria
- The right person to win the elections this year in Tanzania and for that person to have the will to tackle and eliminate the corruption problem within Tanzania
- Let us raise our voice in prayer, asking the Lord to release our fellow Christian Pastor Behnam Irani in prison for being a Christian in Iran
- Thanking God for the successes of President Obama the first black president of the USA
Africa Hopes in Christ prayer points
- At present AHIC is having some problems with opening a bank account within the UK and applying for a Charity commission registration number , please pray for success in these two areas
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God Bless AND THANKYOU Prayer For Africa Friends.
All our love
Yma and Prayer For Africa Friends
If you believe
And I believe
And we together pray
The Holy Spirit will come down
And Africa will be saved