Eunice Godfrey is a writer who shares research and knowledge about Nigeria.
A Rich Culture
The Igbo people of Nigeria have a rich culture that varies from community to community, identifying what locale an Igbo person is from. The traditional marriage is full of rites and activities that display a community's colorful culture and tradition.
This article will examine the traditional marriage of the Awkuzu people of Anambra State in Nigeria.
When a man chooses the woman he wants to marry, there are several steps he takes before she becomes his wife. First, he finds out what family she's from and where they live. Next, he will go with his father or friend as mere visitors and introduce themselves to the family. The family will serve them food, and after eating, they'll leave. This is the first time both families will meet each other.
The second time he visits will be with a friend or his father carrying a bottle of gin and kola nut. This time he will state his reason for visiting: he wants to marry a daughter of that house. The parents of the girl will call the girl and ask her if she would like to marry the young man. She will say let her think about it. At this point, her parents will ask the suitor to come back another time to get his answer.
Negotiating the Bride Price
The suitor will return with his father and kinsmen, bearing drinks and kola nut. At this time, the girl will give her answer. If she says yes, both families will drink the wine brought by the suitor's family. After that, they will state the date when they will come back.
When they return, the two families will agree on a date for brideprice payment. On the said date, the suitor will arrive with his father and kinsmen bearing drinks and kola nut. They will then start to negotiate the bride price. There is no specific amount of money designated for the bride price. Both families will agree on the amount paid. After the bride price payment, the groom's family will go back and then come back another day to schedule the traditional marriage (igba nkwu).
The bride price negotiation is done comically. No amount of money is mentioned; in fact, money is not mentioned at all. The bride's family will bring a bunch of tiny sticks. Each of the sticks represents a tiny amount of money. The bride's family will give the groom's family a number of sticks then the groom's family will look at them. If it's too much, they will remove some and give them back the number they want. If the bride's family is not satisfied, they'll add some more and give them back. This back and forth will continue until both families come to an agreement.
Before the day of the traditional marriage, if the bride's father is dead, the groom's family will perform a rite called igbu ewu nna (to slaughter a goat for the father).
The items needed for this rite include one big live goat, four big tubers of yam, four liters of palm wine and kola nuts. They will also perform another rite ibia na mkpuke (to come to the mother's kitchen). This is a rite performed for the bride's mother, whether she's alive or dead. The basic requirements for this rite are two cartons of malt drink, two crates of soft drinks, and two cartons of stout. If the groom is wealthy, he can decide to buy more.
Another rite performed is called igbu okuku Chi (to kill a chicken for the gods). This is done to appease the gods on behalf of the bride. The items used are one grown hen, four tubers of yam and four liters of palm wine and kola nut.
These rites are performed on different days or can be performed in one day. Both families agree on each date. After Okuku Chi, both families will agree on a date for igbankwu or ibu mmanya nwanyi (to carry wine for a woman). This is the main traditional marriage.
On the traditional marriage day, the groom's family will come with a box full of clothes, 28 numbers of four-liter jars of palmwine, four crates of beer, four crates of soft drinks, four crates of malt drinks and kolanut. The bride's family will cook the meals that will be eaten on that day using the money brought by the groom for that purpose. The groom's family will bring traditional singers and dancers.
The first activity on that day is that the groom's family will come and sit down. The bride and her mother will come out to greet the people. After greeting, she'll go back inside, change her attire and come back outside. She'll then walk over to the oldest male in her family. She will kneel before him while he pours out palmwine into a local cup called ogbe, a small calabash. He'll hand her the drink and she will go and give the groom the drink.
Unlike many other igbo cultures, in Awkuzu tradition, the bride does not dance nor search for the groom. She has already seen where he is sitting when she comes out the first time to greet the crowd. When she gets to the groom she kneels in front of him and drinks from the cup first before handing it over to him to drink. This means that they are united. It signifies acceptance and can be likened to tying the knot in western culture.
After drinking the wine the couple rises and hold each other while they walk to the oldest male in the bride's family who gave her the wine. This person will bless the couple and pray for them. After that they will dance.
Girls from the groom's family will carry her box and dance with the bride leading her to her husband's house. When they get there, married women in the family including her mother-in-law will be waiting to welcome with song and dance. She will meet her husband who left earlier with his groomsmen at home. Together they will dance to the songs being sung by the women till midnight. But this is not the end of the traditional marriage.
After four days the groom's family will bring 10tubers of yam, shoes, the jaw of a cow, carton of soap, bag of salt, handbag and wrappers ,some bring more depending on the groom's wealth. This is for the bride's mother.
The items are carried by strong young men who accompany the bride to her father's house. They will take those things along with the bride and leave her with her parents for another four days. On the fourth day her people will take her back to the groom's people and that is the end of the traditional marriage.
Sources and Further Reading
- My Mother, who is a native of Awkuzu town in Anambra State in Nigeria.
- Igbonezim, N. (2016). "Globalization and the Business of Marriage in Eastern Nigeria: A Study of Traditional Marriage Rites in Awkuzu, Anambra State and Irete, Imo State, Nigeria." Journal of Culture, Society and Development, Vol. 23 (pp. 36-42).
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.