5 intriguing marriage customs in Africa
Africa is a continent with many countries. In these countries lie various traditions; these traditions may be peculiar to a particular tribe or generally practiced by the country.
Here is a list of strange marriage traditions practiced in Africa, in no specific order.
1. Two kids; down payment before marriage
In this marriage tradition, the bride is mandated to be impregnated by the groom after he pays 40 cattle to the family. However, the bride must deliver two children as a sort of down payment before the marriage is officially finalized. Upon giving birth to her third child, the marriage proceedings are officially completed; if the bride fails to have two children, the husband is in the right to move for a divorce, take custody of the child or ask that the cattle paid as dowry be returned. This practice is carried out by the Nuer tribe of Sudan(southern); the essence of this practice by the Nuer people is to ascertain the continuity in the husband’s lineage by the wife.
2. The Kidnap of the Bride-to-be
In Ghana, particularly in the Frafra tribe, If a suitor is interested in a lady, the suitor’s family proceeds to kidnap the lady. She is held hostage in the home, with protection in the form of able-bodied men to avoid escape. In a bid to give information about the bride-to-be’s whereabouts, the suitor’s family would go to the lady’s family bearing gifts like tobacco, kola nuts, and guinea fowl.
Upon accepting the proposal, a dog, two goats, and about five guinea fowls are killed, seasoned, and cooked, then brought to the bride-to-be family in celebration of the successful proposal. The suitor’s family then proceeds to offer the dowry to the bride-to-be family; the dowry usually consists of money, kola nuts, guinea fowls, and four cattle. The cooked meat brought by the suitor’s family is shared and devoured by everyone; this simple act signifies that a new family tie has been established between two families. If the bride’s family, however, rejects the proposal, the suitor’s family then repeats the whole process repeatedly; to show how serious the suitor is about the bride-to-be, some families advise him to impregnate the lady.
3. The Fattening room
This is an old marriage ritual gradually fading into oblivion, practiced in Calabar and by the Efiks and Ibibios, all in Nigeria. This ancient practice believes that being fat is a fantastic pointer to wealth, fertility, prosperity as well as beauty and as such, young women who have reached puberty are taken into a room for ‘fattening up’ to prepare them for womanhood.
Once accepted into the fattening room, family members and friends of the ladies are prevented from seeing them, and the girls receive lectures from the elders(women) in the community on social, marital, and cultural etiquettes. They are mainly fed high content carbohydrates, which is to hasten the fattening process; beauty treatments are also given. Close to the end of the fattening process, the girls’ mothers come around to circumcise the girls; it is believed that the circumcision will keep them faithful in their marital home.
At the end of the ritual, a ceremony is held. The girls are shown off and incorporated back into society; family members, friends, and suitors come to celebrate as they watch the girls dance in their special attires. The ability of the girls to gain weight in the fattening room is a sign that they possess virtues like proven virginity and sexual purity.
4. The blessings in spitting
The Maasai tribe of Kenya practices a strange marriage ritual. The unions are usually arranged marriages by the elders of the two families without the consent of the mother or the bride-to-be. Once the mother receives a bull as a gift, she automatically denotes that one of her children is moving to their husband’s house, usually once the family pays the dowry.
On the wedding day, the father of the bride spits on the bride’s head and breasts; this signifies the father’s blessings as she progresses into another phase of life. The bridal train also performs a dance procession as she leaves her father’s house. As the procession continues, the groom’s family hurls insults at the bride; this is believed to destroy any bad luck she may encounter in her new home.
5. The trade by barter
In the Zulu culture, the payment of the bride price is usually beneficial to both parties. Lobola, as it is traditionally called, is paid to the bride’s family; this is usually a show of gratitude to the family for raising the woman he intends to marry and also a display of apology for taking away their ‘precious jewel.’ After accepting the payment, the bride, in turn, buys groceries and gifts for the groom and the groom’s family. Most times, the money gotten from Lobola is used to purchase these gifts.
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