THE KANURI WEDDING
...Written by Mohammaed M. Goni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Every people have their arts and culture through which their level of civilizations is appreciated. Spot lighting these traditions and ways of life can go a long way in fostering better understanding among us all. For this basic reason, DWi deemed it necessary to showcase the rich heritage of different people of the world by featuring the ways and manners they conduct their ceremonial activities, which often is a thing of pride, joy and identity to them. It is with pleasure that we present the Kanuri people who will take the first bow, as we discover why pure gold coins are considered one of the basic requirements for taking a Lorusa from the modest yet flamboyant Kanuri.
The Kanuri wedding is one event that is colorful and exciting. It is an occasion that brings the people’s culture to life through music, dance and other colorful cultural activities. Living mainly in the large city of Maiduguri, which is the capital of Borno State, North-East Nigeria, the Kanuris are the dominant ethnic group in the state as well as the neighboring Yobe State.
In Kanuri Culture just as in other ethnic groups throughout the world there are norms and values. Even though most of their culture finds its origin from the Islamic religion, yet they have a couple of traditions that are peculiar to the tribe. One of such traditions is how they conduct their marriage ceremony.
Marriage being the sacred union between a man and a woman, this for the Kanuris is done at an early age. The men marry in their twenties and the girls in their teens. As Muslims they are permitted to marry up to four wives and the marriage is effected through a ceremonial event.
For men, their first contact with marriage usually takes place at age of about 20, when according to tradition his parents would marry a young maiden to him; the bride is often between the age of 10 to 14 years. Among the Kanuris, it is preferred for a young man marrying for the very first time to marry a young virgin. So that they can grow old gracefully together, but it is a very expensive form of marriage. The people place a high value upon young girls who have never been married before.
Since girls of this age have very little, if any, to say in their choice of marital partners, for the suitor to be acceptable to her parents, he must either be a relative, or have been known by her family, or has established some kind of relationship with one member of her extended family or has taken the trouble to create one between his own family and her’s, especially her “Luwali” i.e. guardian, the man who dispenses her marriage rights.
After the groom-to-be has established trust and acceptance between him and her family, the next step would be for him to intimate his parents so that arrangements would be made by them to formalize his interest in the bride, thus officially declaring his intention. Here, an elderly man or men from the groom’s side would go and seek for an appointment for a meeting between the two families. Subsequent to which the wedding procedures are planned.
The major activities that would leads to the marriage union include the followings:
1- Confirming the bride’s consent to the groom (i.e. to send his party to her family)
2- Fixing a meeting appointment by parents or guardians
3- Seeking for bride’s hands in marriage by elders. This usually involves presenting a carton of candy, chewing gum and a bag of cola-nuts. This the bride's family will distribute to relatives and well-wishers.
4- Ra'aki meaning “Declaration of Interest” is a phase where luggage full of clothes, shoes, bags and cosmetics are presented on behalf of the groom to the bride. This task is usually executed by the groom's sisters, female cousins and other relatives. This again involves presenting another set of candy, chewing gum and cola-nuts to break the engagement news. And it is worthy to note that at most times the Ra'aki is a half of the Kususuram which is the main gifts presented to the bride by the groom after the marriage. Thus if the Ra'aki is two boxes then the Kususuram will be four or more boxes.
5- The third coming by the groom's relatives is to discuss and agree on the dowry which in Kanuri society is paid in gold coins.
6- The fourth coming is to fix the date for the wedding, even though in recent times the dowry and the date fixing are merged as one event.
In Kanuri marriages dowry is mandatory, which is given by the groom with the help of his paternal relatives to the girl through her Luwali or guardian, usually a senior male paternal relative of the bride. If the union is between a non-cousin and a maiden bride, a preliminary payment the Kwororam (literally meaning payment for asking the bride’s hand in marriage), is given to the luwali by an intermediary from the groom. This payment is passed on to the bride’s mother or her mother’s senior female relatives living close by. The bride might also get a gift for herself. In the case of a marriage between cousins, this payment is not applicable.
The reason being that for such a marriage to be conducted within a family, it has since been established and is only waiting for the time of its execution. During courtship, money and gifts could be given to the proposed bride, if marriage takes place such presents are considered as part of good will from the groom to his bride. Such presents are not returned whether the marriage takes or not, most especially in a marriage to a virgin.
If all goes well with the above mentioned steps, the dowry can either be paid immediately during the third coming or it could be paid one to three months later to the bride's Luwali. Due to the fact that son-in-law has a shame-avoidance relationship with his bride’ luwali, intermediaries are used and haggling is permitted in the situation. It is not always easy to assess the exact point at which either party to an engagement has legal claims upon the marriage intentions of the other. Most informants agreed that any initiatory payments given prior to the big payment to the girl's luwali (the luwaliram) are not returnable if arrangements break down at this stage. The luwaliram is returnable if the girl or her family back out of the agreement.
As regards wedding, the main activities start on Thursday with Nalle or Lalle. Lalle literally means “Henna”, which is used by the bride and other females in attendance to decorate their hands and legs. This signifies the opening for the wedding events. Here, sack or sacks of henna leaves, boxes full of cloth, money, kolanut, candy, chewing gum and a large basin full of items which include soaps, slippers, perfumes, and incense popularly known as Turaren wuta and Humra will be given to the brides aunties from her father’s side [bawaa] where they will sort it out and exchange it with the grooms family, there after they will share the remaining items among themselves.
Friday evening (at 7pm prompt) is the Wushe-wushe night, which means welcome to everyone. This is a very colorful and exciting event that takes place on the eve of the wedding day at the bride's residenceand has in attendance the fathers, mothers, aunties, uncles, friends and well wishers. Here the groom will be accompanied in by his friends and relatives where he sits on a make shift throne along side with his bride after she is also accompanied in with her friends and relatives.
There is a lot of traditional music and dance especially the ganga kuraa which isperformed by everybody, including the aged. The groom is invited to the bride's residence, where he sits on a makeshift throne alone with his bride before the whole invitees. Usually the male Lorusa is accompanied by his friends and relatives. Wushe-wushe is the second most entertaining event after the entire wedding. It is the gala night of the celebrations and last through night till dawn.
Saturday is the D-Day. Usually in the morning between 7-11am the groom with his friends, relatives and well-wishers converge at a meeting point, from where they go to the bride's residence for the Wedding Fatiha. Here an Imam (Islamic scholar) will preside and conduct the rites of marriage involving offer and acceptance of the bride’s hand in marriage by their Luwalis, announcement of the dowry paid, witnesses to the nuptial union, offers prayers/supplications and finally declaring them as husband and wife in front of all as witnesses. Immediately after the Wedding Fatiha, the bride’s family tends to reciprocate the grooms effort by also presenting him with gift of cloth, shoes, perfumes, wristwatches, the holy book, kettle and lots more. It is this gift the groom shares among his friends, sort of a thank you for being there for me.
From there the groom and his people return to a reception that follows immediately. The whole day is usually filled with joy, feasting and merry-making; until 2:00pm when preparations are made by the groom's family to take the “Kususuram” to the bride's residence. The Kususuram is the main gift the groom presents to the bridefrom the grooms family, just like the Ra'aki it also comes in luggages, but more than the ra’aki, usually from three (3) upwards depending on the financial status of the groom.
Later in the evening the grooms relative and friends will come over to pick up the bride where she will be accompanied by her family members to her husband's house because in Kanuri culture the bride is not suppose to sleep in her father's house after the wedding fatiha or on the day of the Wedding Fatiha. Sunday morning which is the penultimate event is Kisai lewa meaning “Greeting of in-laws”. Here, the groom and selected friends of his go to greet his in-laws, which gives the bride's parents an opportunity to advice the groom about being patient and tolerant with his new bride and so on. Many are curious to know; why are gold coins demanded as dowry for a Kanuri bride instead of its cash equivalent? What could be so special about Kanuri women to make them so regarded, dignified, so cherished and appreciated?
To answer this all important question, one must first understand how the Kanuri people regard their women. To the Kanuris, their women are nugget pearls. They are well brought up religiously, to respect, obey and please their husbands. They are taught the art of creating a conducive home. Kanuri women are so good at being wives, that other women from other cultures dread ever having to be married to the same husband in a polygamous setting. Most often she tend to become the favourite wife of the husband. The Kanuri wife is mostly gorgeous, elegant, beautiful and highly refined with culture.
To answer this all important question, one must first understand how the Kanuri people regard their women. To the Kanuris, their women are nugget pearls, gorgeous, elegant, beautiful and highly refined with culture. They are well brought up religiously, to respect, obey and please their husbands. They are taught the art of creating a conducive home. Kanuri women are so good at being wives, that other women from other cultures dread ever having to be married to the same husband in a polygamous setting. Most often she tend to become the favourite wife of the husband.
Now, the Kanuri culture is mostly influenced by Islamic traditions and the wedding dowry is not an exception. Islamically it is ordained that the bride price must be weighed to meet a minimum of ¼ of the gold coin and above. Some give the bride 12 coin of pure gold, others present 18, 24 pieces or even more. And because gold has a universal value and its exchange rate is stable and harmonized throughout the world and for most times, the bride price dowry of a Kanuri woman is therefore tied to gold and thus she is always justly valued.
(c)2012 SWS.Comms Kano, Nigeria.
Goni Mohammed writes from Kano, Nigeria
Photo Credits: Bella Naija, Tosin Photos, Others, Anonymous