9). The main objectives of the study to which the researcher wants to find answers are as follow. 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. It also has ‘eternal’ consequences based on African beliefs in afterlife. Shorter (1998, p. 90) summed it up saying that: “Bridewealth is not a bride-price. Hence, it could be argued that bridewealth is one of the factors contributing to the modern phenomenon of ‘come-and-stay’, influencing them to live in a relationship without an official marriage. It still remains a relevant practice especially to parents whose children want to marry. [10] This form of relationship emphasizes the importance of marriage towards social stability and minimizes the significance of the bond between the husband and wife. One person summarized it in the following way: “Education, Christianity, urbanization and westernization diminish the role of bridewealth, though it is still important – the culture is still an underlying idea in one’s head” (cf. If the groom himself cannot afford to pay bridewealth, his parents, family and friends would contribute. 2013). 06.02.09. App.#, no. It consists of an elaborate ceremony with heavy involvement from both families. Westernization and individualization of the society have also challenged the practice. It is easy to see bridewealth as a purely or predominantly commercial transaction which is introduced into engagement and marriage in violation of human dignity. practice bridewealth). The parents of the groom would also actively participate in the process of bridewealth. Prof Achola stressed that bridewealth was not usually paid in full because the family of the girl could go to ask for assistance to the family of the boy. Consent money (“ayie”) was given to the mother and other family members involved in the marriage negotiations. The various marriage ceremonies performed in Africa begin with the initial introduction between the groom and bride. One of them was related to the increasing role of money as the favorite means of paying bridewealth. Ogbu, J. If bridewealth was returned, the marriage union was annulled, especially when the lady was found to be barren. One Luo respondent defined bridewealth (“nyombo”) as a “payment that is given in exchange for the girl” (cf. [5] The wedding will consist of more modern marital customs relevant to the religion of the participants families. Ogoma, D. (2014). ), Holding the World Together: African Women in Changing Perspective (pp. It was a “seal of relationship” (Waruta, 2005, 107). The parents of the girl were the ones to agree on the amount of bridewealth to be paid. The process of paying and receiving bridewealth was a source of respect for both families in their respective communities. In the contemporary society, many urban residents live in poor conditions and it is very difficult for them to raise bridewealth. The practice is common in all parts of the globe in one form or another but, as an instrument for the legitimation of a marriage, is most highly developed in Africa. 4). They are especially visible during the rites of passage. Another limitation was seen in the fact that members of the Luo community living in Nairobi for a number of years, due to various factors, seemed to have less knowledge about their traditions. It was understood in terms of elopement whereby the young believed they could provide bridewealth but poverty or some other circumstances prevented. It seems reasonable to see bridewealth as a traditional means of ensuring proper relationships between the couple and the rest of the community. Even if bridewealth may not be the main reasons for the existence of those problems, it can be seen as a major contributing factor; A come-and-stay approach to conjugal life is far more prone to disruption than traditional marriage. In that regard, bridewealth was an exchange and sharing of wealth. 2). The significance of marriage forming the foundation of a community is made obsolete if the couple were no longer a part of this community. 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). Bridewealth could be paid in installments. Usually it would be used for school fees, to pay bridewealth for his other sons, to pay his debts and to distribute it among other family members, especially the ones who were poor. Ngubane (1987) talked about disadvantages of ‘monetisation’ of bridewealth such as the transaction becoming privatized, individualized, and commercialized. The amount to be paid is fixed in some community while in others it isn’t and may vary sparingly depending on individual families. 10). 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. The father would keep some animals as a sign of the marriage having been contracted (cf. He could use it for a variety of purposes. The father of the bride was the one who received bridewealth. If there is no bridewealth, they (the couple) can run away, stay together, have children but it is not recognized as a marriage. Africa has a population of over 1.2 billion people spread throughout 52 countries. Keeping in mind the type of data the researcher was interested in collecting, the researcher believed that semi-structured interviews would be the best choice. Some academics believe bridewealth leads to marriage stability, as the bride's family will put pressure on the daughter to remain in the marriage if the payment made was of significant value. 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. 2). 8). The researchers believe this may be due to a lack of support from their uncles with only 22% of students stating that their uncle had helped them throughout their education.[10]. Bibliography of africa Count : 584 Bridewealth Project Africa Bibliography "L'option de la voie juridique". People bypass the obligation of bridewealth by living together and not paying it. Hardy. American Ethnologist, 5(2), 241-262. [10], Within Ghana, it is common for the maternal uncle to pay dowry. They were married for a year. Above, the importance of the marriage gift in relation to marriage has been emphasised. Also the bridewealth received for his sister could be used. 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. 5). Create your own unique website with customizable templates. Due to the sheer size and diversity of Africa, wedding customs vary greatly not just between countries but between local communities. The more educated a lady is the more expensive she is supposed to be at marriage” (2005, p. 54). Are there any changes in the contemporary society that would affect the practice of bridewealth. App.#, no. Retrieved from, World Book, Inc.,. Cohabitation and elopement would be means used to bypass the obligation of bridewealth (Bikorwomuhangi, 2005, p. 4). Marriage and Bridewealth (Ilobolo) in Contemporary Zulu Society. Traditionally, the eldest son and the eldest daughter were to marry/be married first. For example in Senegal there are almost 47% of the marriages where they feature more than one woman. Polyandry (multiple husbands) is very rare in Africa – e.g., Lele. The wedding is an exceptionally respected tradition within Africa due to their deeply rooted appreciation for the notion of family. Such an agreement depended upon their attachment to the traditions and their understanding of the role of bridewealth. 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”. It helped both of know who their ‘significant others’ in both families were. 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. (2018). Two respondents mentioned that “the father of the groom was supposed to provide at least one cow for bridewealth of his son. The ceremony is typically held at the Bride's house. If he did not have it, the father would give him a rope symbolizing that he is giving him a cow” (cf. Once bridewealth was exchanged, marriage was official and was not be broken. According to her, it is not necessary to provide an animal that would have to accompany bridewealth paid in cash. As a result, the new family would start their marital life with some debts that would not be helpful. The process of negotiating and paying bridewealth had a lot of impact on the community. [10] A large majority of these students defended their answer by stating that everyone has a father while not everyone has an uncle. In Africa, the prospective husband pays "Bride wealth" to secure a woman’s hand in marriage the exchange is so commercialized that the inflated costs of bridewealth leave the man with the distinct impression. [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. App.#, no. Even though the traditional understanding of bridewealth seems to be lost a bit or is not as clear as it used to be in the past due to the processes of urbanization, individualization and poor economic conditions, it is still a crucial element in one’s marriage. 8). Prof Achola stressed that marriage was a means of achieving companionship, to get wealth, to have children, to be immortalized as ancestors and to fulfill God’s will. Educated parents might not be interested in receiving bridewealth. It strengthened connections between the families and clans involved. 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). The researcher interviewed 13 people from the Luo community. Bridewealth stabilizes the marriage…” (1998, p. 90). It stabilized marriage by involving many people in collecting it and receiving it. The researcher is interested in acquiring knowledge about bridewealth among Luo urban dwellers of Nairobi. The family is typically involved within this process. One respondent said that “something has to be given. [9] This standpoint is particularly polarizing and has not been backed up by scientific data. Bridewealth was usually paid in form of livestock, especially the cattle, foodstuff and money (Taylor, 1963, p. 72). An example of this is the common practice of bridewealth in Africa, particularly among the Zulu people. 275-293). 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. (1978). According to her, the practice should be perpetuated though it should be made less strict by providing more room for the groom to contribute bridewealth. Livestock was also a way of increasing personal wealth – it would usually multiply. Since the families would usually belong to different clans and communities, bridewealth contributed to forming relationships between them. For young people bridewealth may be an obstacle in marrying because of its amount. Payment of bridewealth gave the young couple an official permission to live together and have children (Mbiti, 1975, p. 108). Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 24(2), 149-156. https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/africa-population/, "Traditional marriage in Igboland: The original cultural way", https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Marriage_customs_in_Africa&oldid=993588803, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 11 December 2020, at 11:34. It would be given in envelopes. Although bridewealth remains widely practised in Southern Africa, few studies have examined the custom in a contemporary context. One of the respondents said that in some areas there was one word used for both bridewealth and marriage -“nyombo” (cf. Once it was given, it signified the permission of the parents of the girl to start living with the boy. However, if there were children born in that marriage, bridewealth was not to be returned; If there were problems in the family, and the bridewealth was spent, it, somehow, forced the wife to continue staying in an abuse relationship; If bridewealth was given in livestock, if there was a disease, it could be easily lost; In case of the death of the wife before bridewealth was completed, it could create tension between the husband and late wife’s family concerning the place of burial; The institution of bridewealth could be used as a means of abusing and disrespecting the bride. That close relationship was mentioned by one person who said that the word “nyombo” is used for both bridewealth and marriage (cf. Langata, a 31 year old Luia man, cohabiting, was interviewed. His interest lies in investigating whether the contemporary understanding of bridewealth, with its various dimensions, among the Luo urban dwellers of Nairobi remains the same in comparison with its traditional meaning as found in literature. Another claimed it was 3 cows and 4-5 goats (cf. The spokesperson of the family would receive bridewealth from the family of the groom and give it to the father of the bride (cf. Another reason was that it gave some control to the wife –it could be a means of exercising some control, including threats, over the husband. It is a custom widely practiced across Africa. It was a traditional way of disciplining people to pay it. She would be the reason of bridewealth – the parents, family and the community would be losing a productive member of the community and bridewealth would be a compensation for it. 19.03.09, Otiende. Even now, some animal is to be given as a part of dowry. App.#, no. People may then be involved with more partners and as a result it may contribute to the spread of AIDS. The Kisii couple was married for 1 year, the Taita couple for 17. The man was 32 years old and his wife was 24. 10, 11). There is no upper limit, it depends upon your generosity” (cf. The Yoruba integrate many traditional Yoruba marriage customs (such as arranged marriages and bridewealth) into their Christian and Islamic ceremonies. Bridewealth seemed to be an indispensable condition of marriage. 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. On the other hand, one person added that “some denominations try to do away with bridewealth believing that bridewealth was causing drift in families”. It was a way of saying thank you and not a way of buying the girl” (cf. The researcher learnt a lot about the practice and its impact on people’s lives. Whenever the husband went to visit the father of the wife, he was expected to bring something, usually cash, for the family” (cf. It gave him more freedom in asking open-ended questions which provided the respondents with the possibility of replying to them in their own words (Barker, 2002, pp. Contemporary Marriage Processes in Nigeria: Willing Love, Perilous Business, Post-Marriage Problems. Furthermore, one of those similarities that holds across sub-Saharan societies is the use of bridewealth as a way of “creating alliances between kinship groups” (Anderson, 2007). Marital commitment articulates one’s conviction about the importance of family life and of procreation. [11] Many Africans are unable to produce the money required to fund a traditional wedding and pay dowry. 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. 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. Marriage ceremonies throughout Africa vary greatly depending on the faith of the individuals. Reflection on an African Traditional Marriage System. African customs create a rich culture. They said that even though bridewealth should be paid, the groom could take a long time to fulfill that obligation. [8] In contrast to this practice, other African communities such as many Moroccan ethnic groups participate in a marital custom known as “dowry”. This research could be a starting point for a further research that would be larger in its scope. App.#, no. If the father of the bride asks for bridewealth and he himself had not paid it, he would die. 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. The institution of this practice is the most concrete symbol of the marriage covenant and security” (1969 p. 140). 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. At the same time its abuse by those who do not understand its cultural relevance but use it as a means to get property causes serious problems for young people. 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. Bridewealth was defined as a ‘payment in exchange to take the girl’, ‘a gift that one has to give to bring families together’. Bride could be considered as a commodity that has been bought and hence could be treated as an object (cf. Prof Achola stressed that bridewealth protected both man and woman in marriage – one could not simply be ditched by the other. Ngubane, H, (1987), The consequences for women of marriage payments in a society with patrilineal descent’, In Parkins, D. and Nyamwaya, D (Eds). 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. The researcher used content analysis to interpret data. Bridewealth is still very much practiced, though the form of payment changed, at least in some instances, from animals, honey, local brew to case. Prof Achola mentioned other forms of paying bridewealth: grain, potatoes, labour, bunches of bananas, bundles of firewood, gourds of milk, planting implements, watertanks, and electrical implements. Much has been made of this system as a means of out-and-out purchase, and in some parts … Puthenpurakal, S. (2005), “Marriage among the Luo of Kenya”, In Getui, M (Ed), In. But the practice of bridewealth likely has even more far-reaching effects. It has been pointed out that bridewealth was a practical expression of the gratitude of the groom and his family for having brought the bride up. This is where the bride inherits gifts from her family with the purpose of using them within her new home. The father of the groom is supposed to help his son in giving him at least one cow. 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. However, a failure to pay at least some significant and agreed upon part of it meant that no matter how long the couple stayed together, their union was not recognized as a marriage (Kam, 2004, p. 7). App.#, no. Sukubu, G. (2003), “Changes in role of bridewealth”, In Achola, P (Ed), Waruta, D.W. (2005), “Marriage and family in contemporary African society: challenges in pastoral counseling”. 40-41) talked about urbanization, with its various dimensions, as one of the major reasons of sociological changes that occurred. The reasons for marriage: to help each other, because God said so, that people should be two, to develop one another, for procreation, for companionship, to satisfy biological needs, it helps in daily life in distributing work. 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