I'm an American born Nigerian who didn't start embracing her heritage until her early 20s. Before that time, if someone were to ask me certain things about traditions and customs in regards to my culture, I wouldn't have had much of an answer to them. Although I'd gone to my home country several times by then, I never paid much attention to the culture.
Now that I'm a little older, I've taken the time to actually learn many of the traditions involved. One of these traditions would be the process involved in a couple deciding to marry in Nigeria.
There are 3 major tribes in Nigeria (Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa) For the purposes of this post, I will detail both customary Igbo and Yoruba traditions (which I will break up into 2 posts). From the research I've done, Hausa traditions are somewhat similar to both Igbo and Yoruba traditions. Both traditions have 2 parts to them which involve (1) a family introduction and (2) a marriage (engagement) ceremony (done in the way of the ancestors)
First up, Igbo tradition.
Introduction - Ikwu Aka (Knocking)
After a period of courtship, the groom to be's family will visit the bride to be's family to be introduced and state their intention. The groom to be will usually visit with immediate family members. If immediate family is not available, any elder relative/family friend is also acceptable.
Once this is done, the groom to be's family will leave and return at an agreed upon time. During this time, it gives the bride to be's family opportunity to "investigate" the groom to be's family (if necessary) and also prepare for the next step.
When the groom to be's family returns, they will bring wine, drinks, food, kola nut, etc., as gifts for the bride to be's family. They will then, again, state their intent with the bride to be. Usually at this time, the bride to be is in another room. When the intent is stated, the bride to be will come out and confirm that the groom to be is someone she is interested in marrying.
As a symbol of hospitality and acceptance, kola nut is used by the elders of the ritual during the prayer and blessing. Once this is completed, it is passed around to others to eat. The food and drinks will be served to show unity and good faith. At this time, a gift list is also provided to the groom to be's family. This list can include anything from items of food to gold watches or expensive fabric. It will depend on the family. The items included must be brought to the traditional marriage ceremony. A date will be set for this ceremony.
Traditional Marriage (Engagement) - Igba Nwku
The traditional marriage could be a small event only including family and close friends or a big event including the whole "village". To begin the ceremony, usually there is music and entertainment. The groom's family presents the gifts requested on the gift list and the bride's family also welcomes them. At this time, the bride is, again, hidden away with her asoebi (similar to bridesmaids) girls. The bride and asoebi girls will dance out and greet the crowd and go sit with her family.
**The Igbo equivalent for aso ebi is Akwa Nde Mbiriechi, but, in general, was never used previously. It's only been in recent times that Igbos have begun to include "family uniform" during the traditional marriage which has consistently been a Yoruba tradition.**
After opening prayer and blessing from the bride's father, he will hand a glass of palm wine (or any other drink) to the bride. The bride is then to take the glass and find her groom in the crowd. When she finds him, she offers him the drink and he will drink it in confirmation. The couple will then greet their families together. Further prayers and blessing will be given, and the couple will also dance for the crowd so that they may "spray" money.
The couple is now MARRIED!!!
**This process is a general summary of introduction and traditional marriage in the Igbo culture. I'm sure that individual families and smaller similar tribes may do things slightly differently.**
I've showcased a couple of Igbo traditional marriages here on the blog and you can check them out here and here.
Next month, I'll present traditional marriage in the way of the Yoruba tribe. More on the way!!!