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Five Interesting African Traditions On Marriage

All over the world, we have interesting lifestyles that are integral parts that dictate customs on various ceremonies, from birth to death and even marriage. In Africa alone, we have over three thousand tribes and each of them has their peculiar customs.

Here are five unique African traditions from different parts of the continent.

Kidnap the bride!

Himba tribe. Photo: Matador Network

If you’re marrying into the Himba tribe of Namibia, one thing you’d have to prepare for is being kidnapped, as a bride. During this process, you’re well taken care of with your wardrobe being worked on, and given a proper beauty treatment which involves the hair and skin smeared in herbs and butterfat, before being crowned in expensive jewellery.

They dress the bride up in a pure leather headdress called okor and after the ceremony, they plaster her in butterfat ointment signifying acceptance into the family.

Children before marriage

A man from the Mundari nomad tribe stands among cattle on Jan. 18, in Juba, South Sudan. Cattle raids, a common occurrence in the region, have grown increasingly violent in recent years.

One would refer to any form of relations that happen before sex as wrong but the Nuer people of South Sudan have alternate views. There, they expect the groom to pay 20 to 40 cows to the bride’s family and then the normal wedding ceremonies happen.

However, she’s supposed to have birthed two children before the wedding is complete. If she ends up bearing just one, the husband is free to ask for a divorce after which he is given a choice to pick between the cows or custody of the child.

A feast for the groom

In Zambia, specifically among the Bemba people, they have various customs that happen before marriage. First, there’s a secret counselling for the bride called Bana Chimbusa. This is followed by Chilanga Mulilo which has the bride’s family taking different dishes to the groom’s family. This is done as a preview into what the groom will eat when he’s married to their daughter. Then there’s the Ama Shikulo, which is the official merging of the two families.

A twist to hen/bachelor nights

A cultural Swahili wedding typically involves the separation of the men from the women. The bride is expected to attend a henna party with her friend, while the groom does the Kirumbizi, a fighting dance accompanied by drums and flutes.

After this, they have the vows ceremony and invite the groom to a luncheon called Walima. He then picks up his wife in a procession filled with dance and music and head to their new home.

A mutual gift exchange

In most African cultures, they expect the groom’s family to pay a bride price. But, in Zulu culture, the wedding (or umabo) procedures are different. There is the payment of lobola (bride price), followed by izibizo, where gifts are given to the bride’s family. This is followed by umbondo where the bride will reciprocate by buying groceries for the groom’s family.

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african marriage customs
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