Africa, the second-largest population in the world with a total of 54 countries is undoubtedly rich in culture and traditions. A vibrant people with unique fascinating lifestyle to show, today weddings take centre stage as we bring you a glimpse of marriage ceremonies from different parts of continent.
Glamorously Adorned Aprons: Ndebele- South Africa:
Proud descendants of the Nguni ethic group, one of the four major ethnic divisions among Black South Africans, the Nguni tribe, who speak Southern Ndebele trace their origin to the Bantu Migrations southwards from the Great Lakes region of East Africa.
Ndebele women, a fashionable clan adorne themselves with eye-catching beaded aprons which clearly signify their status in society; young girls wear the “ghabi”, teenagers wear “pepitu” while the married women go all out with elaborately adorned ones, “mapoto”, for everyday use and the ceremonial apron, jocolo, specially created by her mother-in-law during her wedding ceremony and gifted to her. Made of animal skin, the apron symbolises how many children she will bear.
Like western weddings, the bridal attire is a major part of the event, the Ndebele people ensure the future mother-in-law plays a major role welcoming her daughter-in-law with the beautifully adorned beaded apron made from goatskin.
The Ndebele marriage rites cuts across three stages, spanning years. The curtain can be finally drawn after the birth of the couple’s first child.
The first stage – Labola features bride price payment in installments, the second stage sees a two-week separation of the bride where she is to undergo coaching from other women on how to be a good wife and with the birth of her first child, the third stage is concluded.
After an Ndebele woman is wedded, her garment and accessories become more colorful and extravagant. Married women wear brass rings called idzila—around their arms, legs and neck, the rings are believed to have ritual powers symbolizing a woman’s faithfulness to her husband.
Henna – Kenya
Body marking has no doubt been in existence for decades with its integration to culture undisputable.
Henna, an ancient tradition alternative to tattoo in marriage rites symbolizes purity and fertility although with origins highly disputed has become a well loved symbolic ceremonial tradition common to Swahilis in Kenya, Tanzania, Niger, Nigeria and Tuaregs. Generally, henna can also be seen as reflecting taste in fashion and beauty.
During the wedding celebration which may follow up to a week, female friends and family join in on the ceremony, adoring different parts of their bodies such as the arms, legs and feet with the decorative henna. Blessings and advice come in the mix.
Also known as Laali in Northern Nigeria, Henna is applied during the bride’s Wuni. She is then exempted from chores and pampered in preparation of her new life.
Knocking Ceremony: Ghana, Nigeria
Widely practised in Africa, the knocking ceremony is a tradition used in asking for a lady’s hand in marriage. Known in Ghana as “knocking on the door” or ‘kokoo ko’, Nigeria, – Yoruba, “Mo mi i mo e” (know me and let me know you). The Agikuyu community in Kenya “Kumenya Mucii”(getting to know the home), the knocking ceremony is regarded as the first step in the marriage process.
In essence, usually performed at the bride’s father’s house it is a marriage rite performed between families of the two intending couples, symbolic of respect. This is the first stage of the traditional marriage rites.
The family of the groom turns up with specific traditional items such as wine, money, and kola nuts to formally seek the hand of the bride and to know each other better. The intending bride also gives her consent formally during the occasion. Both families would have had prior knowledge and set aside the date. A spokesperson for the groom’s family is also appointed ahead.
During the event, the marriage list will be presented which would include yards of materials, food stuff, kolanut, hot drink among others. Depending on where the bride is from, the list varies.
Bemba – Zambia
Known as one of the largest ethnic communities in Zambia, a matrilineal tribe, marriage which is viewed not just as a union between the bride and groom but immediate and extended families as well is dubbed a very serious journey . The communalism in Bemba society takes strong backing
The marriage proposal, known as icisumina nsalamu is carried out by the bride’s family who prepare and presents a meal Nshima (traditional thick porridge) complemented wjth whole chicken to the groom
Several stages such as Ukusonga (proposal), Ukukobekela (engagement), pave way for the main Ubwinga (wedding),
The Ukusonga employs an intermediary who serves as spokesman known as Shibukombe. Ukukobekela follows, where demanded items are brought.
Before the bride says her IDo, she is taught by a ‘Bana Chimbusa’, a teacher about running a home. She is also expected to perform a dance in front of married women, showing them all she’s learnt.
Another ceremony called the Ukukonkola – granting authority. In this ceremony is performed, the bride’s family prepares a meal to symbolise the granting of authority to the groom. Hence he is seen as having married their daughter and therefore given due permittion to make decisions that affect his wife’s side of the family without consulting his in-laws. The whole marriage ceremony is rounded off with amatebeto known as thanksgiving.
Kidnap the bride – Himba tribe
The Himba are an estimated population of about 50,000 people living in northern Namibia, in the Kunene Region and on the other side of the Kunene River in southern Angola. Their earliest settlements can be traced back to the early 16th century when they crossed the Angolan border and chose Kaokoland (nowadays called Kunene region) as their new homeland.
The older girls are recognised by their distinctive looks, the red ochre cream rubbed on their skin is made by pounding the ochre stone into small pieces then mixed with butter, slightly heated and applied on the skin to prevent insect bites and protect their skin from the harsh sun. The women don’t bathe but smoke baths. Her women walk proudly with the Himba crown – made of goat leather and known as Erembe placed only when she reaches the age of puberty.
The Himba tribe give out their girls to male partners selected by their fathers once they attain puberty. A polygamous folk, the average Himba man has two wives. Adultery isn’t socially condemned pre-arranged marriages and most fall pregnant very young.
Before the actual wedding ceremony, the Himba people of Namibia kidnap the bride and deck her in a pure leather headdress called okor. During this time she is updated on her expected responsibilities. After the ceremony, her body is treated with butterfat ointment and crowned with expensive jewelry signifying acceptance into the family.