A Nigerian wedding is more than just a celebration of love; it is an exhibition of cultural beliefs, values, norms and general way of life of a people, as every aspect of the social event is a symbol that connotes a deeper meaning in a given Nigerian tribe.
According to Karin Gonzalez, a cultural symbol is a physical manifestation that signifies the ideology of a particular culture or that merely has meaning within a culture. Example of such a culture is the wedding culture.
Basically, there are three major tribes in Nigeria-Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa/Fulani of which each of them has a unique wedding culture, although some aspects of their cultures look alike.
Here in this article, we made an effort to interpret some notable symbols in Nigerian wedding culture.
The first on our review is Bride Price. It is an age-long tradition across the three major tribes in Nigeria and a host of others which stipulates that the man provides an agreed list of items for the bride’s family before the marriage can take place. This is known as Eru Iyawo in Yoruba, Rubu Dinar or Sadaki in Hausa and Ime Ego in Igbo tribe. This tradition simply symbolizes that the man is capable of taking care of her and as well provide for their new family financially. To the culturalist, the *bride price* is not a way of commodifying a woman as emerging contemporary views tend to see it.
The Yoruba’s infuse their greeting custom known as Ìdobálè into their traditional wedding. The groom and his groomsmen must prostrate before the bride’s family and their chests must touch the ground completely for the greeting to be accepted. This is symbolic of the groom honoring the bride’s family for raising his future wife. The groom and his men also prostrate at the feet of of his parents as a sign of respect.
An important aspect in Igbo traditional wedding is “wine carrying” called Igba Nkwu in Igbo language. At this stage, the bride must search for her future husband who is hiding among the crowd of men. She dances happily while searching for him in the crowd. She must correctly identify her fiancé and then offer him a cup of wine, which he must then drink from. If he takes a sip, it signifies to the crowd that he is her husband.
A replica of “wine carrying” tradition of the Igbos exists in Yoruba traditional wedding too. After the men prostrate and questioning from the bride’s family, he is made to sit together with groomsmen while the bride enters with her ladies who are all wearing matching aso-ebi. She moves around in the crowd holding a hat (fila) to be placed on the groom’s head. Whoever she places the hat on, it signifies that he is the husband. The groom in return then carries her, this is where the Yoruba word Igbeyawo for wedding originates.
A common culture in Fulani tradition is Sharo which is a traditional cultural practice where young Fulani men compete to find a wife as they flog one another with wooden sticks and canes to test their endurance. This tradition symbolizes a sign of strength, manliness, courage and endurance as the last man standing in the competition wins the lady in question as wife.
However, this cultural practice among Fulani’s has declined in recent years, as some Fulani men describe it as dangerous and forbidden in Islam.
Are there any other cultural symbols of traditional wedding in your culture that you would like to share? Let’s hear from you in the comment section.
Photo Credit: Igbo Weddings