Traditional Marriage: Display of cultural Flamboyance and pride among Kanuri people — Nigerian Pilot News
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Traditional Marriage: Display of cultural Flamboyance and pride among Kanuri people



Habitually, marriage plays a very prestigious role in Nigeria and African in general, as the institution is seen as blessing and a source of continuity of family lineages.
In this edition Our Correspondent, PALMA ILEYE, gives hints on the marriage style practiced by the Kanuris, off springs of the ancient Kanem-Bornu Empire, in Bauchi State.
Typically, the Kanuris have for centuries, built an incredible cultural heritage of marriage system which is known for their flamboyance and show of pride.
However, new practices emerge with the passage of time which in turn, affect changes to the various stages of the marriage process and have brought to the fore, very colorful fashion especially during marriages.
For instance, intending grooms are expected to pay bride prices in gold coins. This is something the Kanuri’s have held sacrosanct in the centuries that have passed and even up till this day. However, growing populations and a scarcity of accepted.
At the palace of the custodian of the Kanuri people, these gold coins has forced a compromise where in certain instances the naira equivalent of the coins is heritage, the Shehu of Borno, the Ya-Morom of Borno, Ajja Mali, discussed these rites and how things have changed over time.
In the olden days, only elders could search for suitors for their daughters and initiate the traditional process that led to a successful wedding, and both the bride and groom would have no choice but to obey their parents.
From an Islamic perspective and according to Kanuri tradition, a marriage becomes illegitimate when couples co-habit without paying dowry.
Basically the marriage tradition of the Kanuris begins with the mutual agreement of falling in love known as, ‘rawo’. This is followed by other aspects of courtship called, ‘Askil’ that involves traditional dance between young people where girls clap and boys dance vigorously.
The next process features the display of traditional wrestling, ‘Nguwa’ the ‘Kadi’, which refers to tracing of the footsteps of thieves to retrieve stolen items to proof the suitor’s capability to defend his home.
There is also the ‘Surwa’, a collective volunteer service performed to build houses houses and cultivate farmland for his in-laws to be, the ‘Ngumuri’, Sallah festivities; the coming together of the bride’s and groom’s friends to engage in ceremonial performances, termed ‘‘Sawaram’, ‘Kasuwu’, a weekly market shopping to impress the family of a chosen loved one).
A very important aspect in the Kanuri marriage process is known as, ‘Ra’aki’, which is the act of being in love, follows next. This is a stage where a delegation is dispatched by the boy’s parents to the girl’s with betrothal gifts comprising clothes, cosmetics and many other items. This process is called ‘Gawo’ meaning, formal presentation of the boy to the girl and leads to ‘Kworo’ where the formal consent of the girl is sought.
At this stage, a delegation of dignitaries comprising men and women visit the girl’s family, who, traditionally, are expected to receive the visitors.
Now, the girl’s parents present some confectionaries to dignitaries as a token of appreciation for the gifts presented to them. This process is called ‘Kworo’ which literally means to ask, and the girl’s acceptance or refusal is signaled through expression of smiles, happiness, sadness or denial.
Next is ‘Sarte’, at this stage the wedding date is fixed. The date is agreed upon after deliberations by the two parties. This implies that the chosen suitor is without rival in the marriage arrangement, the refund of gifts previously received from other suitors and confirmation of medical history of the two families. Afterwards, the amount of ‘Sadawu’ (dowry) is agreed upon to complete the process.
They include expression of mutual love by the boy and the girl, respect for the ‘Waliyyi’ (the giver), who could be her father or guardian, observance of ‘Sadawu’ which is the dowry, ‘Sigga’ (the act of asking and acceptance between the family of the bride and groom and their witnesses).
The minimum amount payable as dowry in Kanuri marriage is a quarter of a ‘Dinar’ (a pure gold coin), if a ‘Dinar’ costs N10, 000, the dowry will be about N2, 500, which could be said to be cheap, and as much as N200, 000 is paid as dowry in modern times.
The betrothal gifts presented to the bride-to-be family by the groom-to-be family include so many gift items for the bride’s mother, aunt(s), uncle(s), sister(s), grandfather(s) and mother(s).
After the wedding, when the bride finally leaves for the groom’s house, which is her life-long matrimonial home, things like ‘Kaulu’ which is the washing of hands and feet with palm oil and milk, washing of her hair, and her conveyance to the groom’s house in a car, will all be paid for by the groom’s friends.
“All these aim at showing the value and love for the bride and to exploit her blessing. “Traditionally, the success of her marriage is believed to be largely dependent on the quantum of blessings realized from these activities.”
The ‘Wuskru’ which is also called ‘Walimah’, takes place a day after the wedding. On this day, dishes are prepared and dignitaries, friends and well-wishers are invited to the newlyweds’ home to dine.
The traditional singing and dancing to entertain visitors at the wedding ceremony starts on the eve of the wedding day and continues to the end of the ceremony.
In the Kanuri tradition and culture the bride does not appear in public, from the day her marriage is fixed, only her friends could have access to her for a whole year until the traditional marriage rites and ceremonies are concluded.
After she has been taken to her matrimonial home, she does not visit her family members until she is transformed from childhood to womanhood, after which she goes and rejoice with her family and stay for one week. This is called ‘fato kuru’. Her family then celebrates her one year of successful marriage especially if she is lucky with a pregnancy or baby.

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