It legitimizes the children of the union and confers legal rights over them upon the father. App.#, no. Mitchell, P. (1954). it could be slaughtered for burial; If bridewealth was not spent, it provided an opportunity for the girl to come back to her parental home. By doing it, one was fulfilling his obligations towards God which made him to be at peace because he was promoting the life-force. Due to Africa's expansive diversity, marriages within the continent are not limited to previously mentioned forms of marriage. Prof Achola stressed that bridewealth protected both man and woman in marriage – one could not simply be ditched by the other. It was understood in terms of elopement whereby the young believed they could provide bridewealth but poverty or some other circumstances prevented. Marital commitment articulates one’s conviction about the importance of family life and of procreation. One of them was related to the increasing role of money as the favorite means of paying bridewealth. Being married and to have children affects not only one’s earthly destiny. 4). The process of paying and receiving bridewealth was a source of respect for both families in their respective communities. Some African academics have argued that this is a strong foundation for a society and that it is the woman's role to attend to household duties. It was given because the parents of the girls have raised their daughter up. Some mentioned practical ways of accommodating the practice due to the difficult economic conditions that affect many young people. Bridewealth involved the parents of the girl. Reflection on an African Traditional Marriage System. There were some group interviews, though most were individual ones. A 29 years old married Luo lady was interviewed. It legalized the status of the wife, as well as of children and their rights. A good wife is the best investment any man can ever make. Another respondent said that it was “ongoing, you keep contributing. if bridewealth was completed or some. Omari, T. (1960). Young people living in towns, often were not aware of the cultural values and practices of their communities. The payment of bridewealth was considered in terms of an ongoing process, strengthening the relationships between the families and communities involved (Kam, 2004, p. 4, Puthenpurakal, 2005, p. 14). App.#, no. Despite this, there are also many similarities between African weddings and the customs that surround them. At the same time, it is clear that even though the Luo traditions, as well as of other communities, are being challenged yet, the Luo respondents were quite attached to their traditions, bridewealth being one of them. All these adjustments in the practice that take into consideration new circumstances, indicate to the researcher, that bridewealth will continue to exert influence. These reflections seemed the most important when reflecting upon the value and relevance of bridewealth. Among various elements involved in the rite of marriage bridewealth plays an important role. 79-85) claimed that delaying marriages due to various economic factors, including high amount of bridewealth, contributed to premarital sex, spread of STDs and HIV/AIDS. 19.03.09, Otiende. Sometimes, marriages of the sons could be delayed because they had to wait for bridewealth for their sister to be given so that they could get necessary means to pay it (Koyango-Male, 1984, p. 17). She defined bridewealth. A Luo lady who was married for 5 years was interviewed. P. 1. She defined bridewealth as something “like a present for the parents of the girl”. [2] It is common practice in Africa to combine practices of major religions with local religious traditions. It was a traditional way of disciplining people to pay it. This point was also stressed by Waruta (2005, p. 107). The ‘consent money’ would be given to the members of the family, especially the mother, who would get the biggest part of it, and after it, the young could live together. 4). App.#, no. 10). The respondent stressed that if one did not pay bridewealth for his wife, he could not get it for his daughter. The father would keep some animals as a sign of the marriage having been contracted (cf. In case of divorce, the bridewealth was to be returned, and often it was already used by the family of the wife – practice of bridewealth effectively encouraged the wife to stay in that relationship; A lot could be asked as bridewealth. Kisembo supported that view by saying that “when bridewealth is demanded in cash, it becomes more difficult to collect” (1998, p. 210). Shorter summarized it by saying that bridewealth was “a legal document signifying that the marriage has taken place and that the husband has conjugal rights. It was a means of strengthening relationships, legalizing marriage and legalizing children. African Bridewealth and Women's Status. This paper addresses the paucity of research by focusing on South African Zulu society where, among all cultural traditions, the payment of bridewealth (ilobolo) continues to be one of the most salient. Inability to pay bridewealth among some young people was a main factor to elope and to live together in unions that were not traditionally recognized as marriages. Prof Achola provided the class with three main reasons of the use of livestock in payment of bridewealth. Bridewealth was given in terms of livestock and money. (2019). Bibliography of africa Count : 584 Bridewealth Project Africa Bibliography "L'option de la voie juridique". 2, 4). In that regard, bridewealth was an exchange and sharing of wealth. 27.02.09, Dandora. If people cannot pay it, it spoils the relationship between them and the parents. Then, bridewealth was to be returned to the family of the groom. The ceremony is typically held at the Bride's house. 275-293). Many people were involved in the process of bridewealth. [8] In contrast to this practice, other African communities such as many Moroccan ethnic groups participate in a marital custom known as “dowry”. Those animals serve as a proof that the marriage was contracted and a means of increasing the wealth of the family of the bride. Bride could be considered as a commodity that has been bought and hence could be treated as an object (cf. [7] It is cemented into their culture that marriage is about procreation and providing the child with an environment in which they can thrive. Families are of supreme importance in Africa, and the bridewealth payment cements this relationship. One animal had to come from the father of the groom. 26.02.09. It was a means of binding not only two communities/ethnic groups but also of strengthening inner connection within one community. In modern practice, the payment is typically in forms of cash. In that regard, one could conclude that paying bridewealth could be seen also a sacred duty. Since the families would usually belong to different clans and communities, bridewealth contributed to forming relationships between them. The researcher believes that his field findings and literature findings, alongside with some parts of the presentation by Prof Achola are in basic agreement about the role of bridewealth and the difficulty it causes to some people in urban areas. Both groups saw bridewealth and polygyny as instruments of male domination and sym-bols of women's inferior status. What is bridewealth Marriage was an important rite of passage in Africa (Waruta, 2005, p. 103, Bikorwomuhangi, 2005, p. 1). Generally, the woman would not live with her husband and would remain living with her parents. It is common for the families to choose a colour to abide to in their dress code. Another claimed it was 3 cows and 4-5 goats (cf. Some … On the community level, which by implication would involve both families, the parents of the bride and the groom, and the couple, bridewealth legalized the marriage. Above, the importance of the marriage gift in relation to marriage has been emphasised. The researcher interviewed 13 people from the Luo community. According to the researcher, the most appealing explanation used by those authors to support this view was the one rooted in the fact that in the traditional African society the purpose of human existence was understood in terms of fostering life. 8). It is a custom widely practiced across Africa. It was never a solitary affair. Some of the respondents stressed that it was “like a gift, though an obligatory one, which is given to the parents (“yuora”) of the girl”. The interview was in Swahili. It was a proof that the girl was married into a new family and became a part of that new family. 5). One responded said that “the more girls you have, the more wealth you will have in terms of cattle and goats” (cf. Inability to pay bridewealth was the main reason of such a situation. Among advantages of the custom she enumerated: It was an official recognition of the marriage; official recognition of the status of the bride as a wife and of the children; If the wife died before the bridewealth was paid, the husband would have to pay it before he could be allowed to marry her – paying bridewealth was a way of avoiding future issues; It gave the wife respect – she was seen as a wife of so and so; It was also a sign that the lady was no more available for marriage to somebody else. On the part of the groom (“or”) the following could participate in it: elders from the family, the father, uncles and friends. Bridewealth was an important practice in the Luo community. Kisembo, B. Magesa, L. and Shorter, A. Bridewealth did not have to be paid in full. An example of this is the common practice of bridewealth in Africa, particularly among the Zulu people. Otherwise they would not allow the wedding to be celebrated. Prof Achola talked about the fact that some people commercialized the custom and were very inflexible in negotiations about its payment. Education has also affected the practice of bridewealth. Traditionally bridewealth was given in animals, especially cows and goats. They may perform their own simplified ceremonies as a response to their economic conditions. Other reflections could have been drawn that would reflect multidimensionality of the concept of bridewealth. Bikorwomuhangi (2005, p. 4) claimed that “bridewealth became commercialized and it is like it has degenerated into commodity exchange”. In his case, paying bridewealth was an obstacle but it was ‘a must’. 8). However, even if money is given, at least one cow is to be given. Some Christian parents said that they would allow their daughter to marry a man even though he might not be able to pay bridewealth at that moment. 05.02.09. practice bridewealth). The amount paid depended upon the agreement between the two families, economic situation of the man and how much both families were attached to their local traditions. Second to that, it was thought to serve as a way of covering to the bride’s family for the loss of her services, and to legitimize the children born to the marriage (Anderson, 2007). [10], Within Ghana, it is common for the maternal uncle to pay dowry. Abwanda confirmed that point stressing that “according to Luo customary law, bridewealth is what really seals a marriage contract and without it there is no marriage in the Luo custom (2004, p. 9). Modern factors that influence the practice were related to economic conditions that make is more difficult to pay. 2013). Returning bridewealth meant dissolution of marriage. Of the two elements, bridewealth received more attention Those interviews consisted of ‘a written list of questions and topics that need to be covered in a particular order’ (Russell, 1994, p. 209). These new ways would comprise the traditional understanding of bridewealth and take into account difficult life conditions of many young people in Nairobi that create an obstacle or make it even impossible to fulfill it. Marriage and Bridewealth (Ilobolo) in Contemporary Zulu Society. Keeping in mind the small scope of this project, the researcher decided to use some elements of descriptive statistics in order to provide simple summaries of the findings. Traditionally speaking, the payment of bride price in Africa is a practice that is as old as time itself. The extended family is the most important unit of social organization. Examples of this include the exchange of marital vows and modern wedding attire being worn by the bride and groom. One person said that “ni lazima kupeleka mahari kwenye nyumba ya wazazi, hapo wanapoishi” (It is necessary to send bridewealth to the place where the parents live) (cf. App.#, no. A 27 years old Luo lady was interviewed. The various marriage ceremonies performed in Africa begin with the initial introduction between the groom and bride. 2). The Yoruba call this ‘Mo mi i mo e’ (know me and let me know you) while the Igbo call it ‘Ikutu aka n’ulo’ (Knock on the door). Others would even leave the responsibility to pay it in the hands of the groom. Comparative anthropology has shown that bridewealth is more likely to be paid amongst populations whose main mode of food getting system is horticulture or pastoralism. 10). It is of traditional belief that the child does not know when he is ready to marry, therefore the parents will make the decision for them. They believe that if they forfeit it an evil thing will happen. [1] The large size and extreme diversity of the continent leads to enormous diversity among the marriage ceremonies and traditions that take place. Kithinji says that “The dowry issue is causing a lot of problems to young people. The researcher found that the understanding of bridewealth among the Luo residents of Nairobi was similar to the one found in books. App.#, no. The acceptance of bridewealth by the parents meant that they were giving their permission to marry and that they were blessing them. App.#, no. The disruption comes from the contemporary changes taking place in the society, especially the poor economic conditions. The researcher is interested in acquiring knowledge about bridewealth among Luo urban dwellers of Nairobi. However, he also mentioned that “It is not the amount of money that really matters but rather problems arise if the parents do not want to negotiate that amount”. It was “the most responsible phase in life” (Mbiti, 1975, p. 104). Marriage and kinship are also linked by customs governing the transfer of property between and within kin groups. Mbiti (1969, p. 140, 1975, p. 108), Magesa (1997, p. 122) and Waruta (2005, p. 107), emphasized that bridewealth should not be seen in terms of ‘payment’ for the girl – it was rather a way of fostering her dignity by showing her how important she was for the groom. She claimed that it is the family of the bride that would go to the family of the groom to negotiate the amount of bridewealth. He believes that the practice should be maintained though in a more moderate form that would prevent some a possible exploitation of young men. Distribution of bridewealth among various members of the family of the bride pointed to its communitarian dimension. 6). It can be a help or actually an obstacle. If there is no bridewealth, they (the couple) can run away, stay together, have children but it is not recognized as a marriage. Chosen members of both families would be involved in bridewealth negotiations. If the groom cannot pay it, it causes problems in the family. The symbolic value is essenti… The Yoruba teach proverbs such as ““Bi omode ba to loko, aa fun loko, bi o ba to l’ada, aa fun l’ada” which translates to “when a child is ripe for hoe, he is given a hoe, if he is ripe for cutlass, he is given cutlass”. If he is not able to afford it, he is to get at least a rope which will be used to take that animal to girl’s parents. At home the gift ‘replaces’ her reminding the family that she will leave or has left and yet she is not dead… The gift legalizes her value and the marriage contract. It contributed to the spread of promiscuity and HIV/AIDS. During those interviews, an interview guide, especially prepared by the researcher, was used. This practice is very common among the animist and the Muslim communities. Another advantage of bridewealth was that it gave the couple mutual rights, e.g. It is symbolic” 6(p48). Studies performed on students within Ghana showed strong evidence suggesting that young people within Africa are drawn towards civil or religious marriages as opposed to traditional marriages. Within many African communities, such as Nigerian ethnic groups, the engagement is where the traditional practices are performed. Traditionally, the payment of bridewealth was a sign of the boy’s commitment to marriage and his responsibility. It was “a way of showing respect towards the parents of the girl because an individual was paying for the expenses the parents had concerning their daughter” (cf. Many advantages enumerated by the respondents have already been referred to. Bridewealth (“nyombo” in Luo) was defined by her as“a token given to the parents of the wife as a sign of respect, a sign of reward for bringing up the girl”. App.#, no. The bride’s qualities and education would be important in negotiating the amount of bridewealth. In general, for the parents of the girl, payment of bridewealth was a sign of respect on the side of the groom and his family. For young people bridewealth may be an obstacle in marrying because of its amount. If he did not have it, the father would give him a rope symbolizing that he is giving him a cow” (cf. The researcher used content analysis to interpret data. However, if they saw it in terms of acquiring wealth, a high amount, difficult to pay, could be quoted by them (cf. Much has been made of this system as a means of out-and-out purchase, and in some parts … Consent money (“ayie”) was given to the mother and other family members involved in the marriage negotiations. Within many African communities, such as Nigerianethnic groups, the engagement is where the traditional practices are performed. One respondent said that: “it was a wealth for the family - they get animals, they get milk and respect in the village” (cf. [9] Marriage to this ethnic group is seen to be the foundation of their society rather than a bond between two people expressing love for one another. It raises the status of the lady’s family and the man’s family in terms of ownership; It could be of help to less privileged members of groom’s family; It could be used to pay for the bridewealth of the sons; It uplifted the economic status by enabling them to acquire more property. It was given to her because she would be the one being most affected by her daughter being taken away from her. Among the Luo, it was “an essential obligation that legitimizes an adult into … Overall the polygamy in Africa is a very common practice that you are going to find all over Africa, but it tends to be more popular especially in the West African countries. Polygamy is heavily integrated into traditional Ghanaian marriage. Are there any changes in the contemporary society that would affect the practice of bridewealth; What are the advantages of the practice of bridewealth; What are the disadvantages of the practice; Will the practice continue in the future. All the respondents claimed that the practice of bridewealth is ongoing in towns and villages. Bridewealth was an integral part of marriage process (Mbiti, 1975, p. 107, Magesa, 1997, p. 122, Warura, 2005, p. 102). As a result, it could be argued that in some cases bridewealth indirectly contributes to the increase of sexual immorality and spread of HIV/AIDS. 27.03.09, Dandora. Bridewealth seemed to be an indispensable condition of marriage. They have contributed to what one person described as “some lack of care about others” (cf. However, these days, in some cases, bridewealth is a means of distorting those relationships; It is worth mentioning that those who stressed that the practice of bridewealth would continue did not base their argument on its many advantages, but invariably rooted it in the fact that it was a tradition to be followed and as such it should and would not be changed. The parents of the girl were the ones to agree on the amount of bridewealth to be paid. The continuity is to be seen in the fact that bridewealth is still practiced, in towns, and probably even more in rural areas. One Luo respondent defined bridewealth (“nyombo”) as a “payment that is given in exchange for the girl” (cf. One could rely on others to support him. The effort of parents was appreciated in a very concrete form; The practice of bridewealth pointed out to the importance of traditions in the life of the community. He wants to find out whether the traditional understanding of bridewealth has been affected as a result of those changes. River Estate. He would be the one involved at all stages of the process. App.#, no. Usually, when the mother received “ayie”, the close relatives would also receive some money in “bahasha” (envelopes). In Achebe N. & Robertson C. Hence, bridewealth was contributing to wives staying in some abusive relationships; If the parents cannot agree about bridewealth, the young may have to wait till the parents are dead to formalize their relationship. Bridewealth is seen as a form of “insurance” for the bride's family, as they know that if economic hardship entails they are able to rely on the groom's family to care of them. The advantages of bridewealth as found in the field research correspond closely to the one mentioned by such popular writers as Mbiti and Magesa and what Prof Achola presented in his class. These days some young people choose not to pay it and yet they want to live together. In the contemporary society, many urban residents live in poor conditions and it is very difficult for them to raise bridewealth. Some academics believe this may not be a choice, but rather the outcome of current living conditions within the continent. The interest of the boy in marrying a girl would be the first step in the process of paying bridewealth. 14.03.09, Dandora. Disadvantages: a father could ask for too much, people having difficulty to raise it and the payment of bridewealth was actually seen as a sign of marriage. Among the Luo, bridewealth was not so important and high as among other communities. Various authors referred to in the literature review seemed to suggest that the practice of bridewealth would continue in spite of its above mentioned disadvantages and socio-cultural changes taking place, especially in modern cities such like Nairobi. Similarly, marriage in Africa south of the Sahara almost always involves bridewealth, the transfer of economic goods from the family of the husband to that of the wife. Without bridewealth, such an expression of commitment and responsibility may not be there. Among the disadvantages, the following were enumerated: “we are not married traditionally because bridewealth was not delivered”; The eldest son is to deliver is first, and the eldest daughter is to paid bridewealth for as the first person. [10] The married couple would have fairly minimal interaction with one another, to such an extent that the wife would often refer to her husband as the father of her sons name. Such an approach allowed the researcher to ask questions answers to which were not necessarily easy to quantify. It bound two individuals, their families and even their communities. Bridewealth is still very much practiced, though the form of payment changed, at least in some instances, from animals, honey, local brew to case. It also has ‘eternal’ consequences based on African beliefs in afterlife. Nonetheless, all the respondents also acknowledged that the practice of bridewealth was often abused, was undergoing significant changes and young people were finding their ways to bypass it. Although bridewealth remains widely practised in Southern Africa, few studies have examined the custom in a contemporary context. App.#, no. Africans/Ghanaians, love which is vital in marriage in the Western societies means the state of meeting material needs of children, parents, spouse and close relatives while success is identified to include marriage, children, social recognition and contribution to society (Annabella et al., 2018). Some referred to the poor economic situation affecting the practice. (1978). We argue that the payment of bridewealth from a man‟s to a woman‟s family triggers reciprocal obligations on the part of the woman. And bridewealth was an integral, and in most cases indispensable, part of marriage process (Mbiti, 1975, p. 107, Magesa, 1997, p. 122, Waruta, 2005, p. 102). d. Culturally, the groom was always ‘bound’ by bridewealth – it was an ongoing process that meant, using the words of one respondent, “everlasting indebtedness” (cf. If he is not able to afford it, he is to get at least a rope which will be used to take that animal to girl’s parents. Although many studies describe the particulars of the bridewealth transaction and emphasize its importance, there is little causal evidence of its effects. Payment of bridewealth gave the young couple an official permission to live together and have children (Mbiti, 1975, p. 108). d. It is the protection and exhibition of cultural resources. One lady described it as follows: “the groom has to pay it because of my hardships involved in bringing my daughter up. To remove it would be a sign of irresponsibility – ability to raise bridewealth was a practical expression of the groom’s ability to provide for his family” (cf. There is no upper limit, it depends upon your generosity” (cf. [6] While this is not a custom of Islamic or Christian marriage, many Africans adopt the traditional practice into their communities creating a strong link between their primary religion and their traditional and cultural beliefs. As a result, the young could elope or the future husband would have to take loans to be able to pay for bridewealth. A curse could also result from breaking certain taboos around bridewealth, like somebody eating the chicken prepared for the groom (cf. Once it was given, it signified the permission of the parents of the girl to start living with the boy. App.#, no. App.#, no. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. Hence, It could be perceived that the value of the bride was related to the amount asked. It meant that they followed local traditions. The researcher wants to focus on the role that bridewealth plays among selected members of Luo community, who are married or cohabiting together in the area of Nairobi. Shorter stressed it saying that: “Many individuals of the bridegroom’s family contribute to it and many individuals of the bride’s family benefit from it” (1998, p. 90).The members of the family and the community would participate at various stages. 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