Among the Ankole of Uganda, a couple intending to marry usually consults with the elders before proceeding with marriage preparations.
1. Marriage Arrangements.
The common thread in Ankole marriage just like many traditional marriages in Africa is to create closeness to the bridal family. This is done by a third party called ‘kateraruume’, which means someone who will remove the dew from the path.
Even when a couple has stayed together (co habiting), the go between (third party) is key in initiating marriage negotiations.
The go between is a highly respected person representing the grooms interests and is charged with facing the bride’s family and ensuring that the bride’s family is willing to accept the grooms family to formally discuss the marriage.
When the proposal has been accepted, the man’s family approaches the girls family with the third party(kateraruume) leading them there. At the brides home, the go between knocks at the gate and is invited in with the grooms entourage after some teasing and this time the entourage usually comes with some beer.
The go between then indicates to the girls marriage panel that he is on a marriage mission. He explains his mission and is asked many questions by the girls family then they discuss the marriage payments, which can be picked any time after the two families have agreed, sometimes on that same day.
This is followed by preparations for marriage. Traditionally among the Ankole, the marriage payment included cattle which maybe more than ten, these gifts are given to the bride’s family symbolizing the ability of the groom to take care of his woman.
2. The Bride And Groom To Be.
The bride and groom to be are usually not part of the discussions, the bride is usually hidden while the groom has to keep quiet throughout the discussions and wait for the outcome. In this case, the Groom to be is treated as ‘king’ because everything is done on his behalf.
In traditional Ankole society, a man marries a woman. A woman never marries a man. It is taboo if a woman seeks out a man’s hand in marriage. It is the man who chooses not to marry the woman, therefore the woman has to be marriage material.
Unlike today where men prefer to marry slim women, in traditional Ankole society, slim girls were unfit for marriage, that is why among the Bahima (Tribe of Banyankole),girls who were at the age of marriage were forced to feed on milk until they were very heavy.’ they could barely walk’ an Ankole elder once joked during an introduction ceremony.
3. The Giveaway Ceremony (OKUHINGIRA)
Today men feel cheated by paying bride price, but in typical Ankole tradition, a groom gains from the marriage. This is because the gifts (the Emihingiro) that the bride comes with sometimes are more than those paid by the groom as bride price. For example among the Bahima, the aunties and uncles give cows to the bride during the kuhingira as a gift for starting their homes.
Younger girls and boys called the ‘enshagarizi’ then escort the bride to the grooms place after the blessings from the elders. Today, the groom’s side has to organize transport for these people because they are very important for any marriage ceremony in Ankole. Going back is not necessarily the role of the bridegroom.
After the kuhingira, the bride’s side is still in control though. The bride, according to culture is not supposed to do any work until the cultural initiation. This is done after about ten days from the giveaway day.
During the initiation, the bride is made to light a fire in the kitchen in the tradition called ‘okukoza omumuriro’ (helping the bride to start toughing fire).
Because of modern times like today where women work and have to earn a living, some brides have left the bridal room (orusika) the day after marriage to continue with their lives where every minute lost contributes to a lot of poverty in the homes.
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