Marriage is one of the passages of life celebrated among the Bimoba people since it is recognized as one most important rite in one’s life. The role of marriage among the Bimoba people cannot be underestimated. Unmarried adults are not given full recognition in the society for reasons tied to cultural norms, social values and traditions. Getting married gives people social prestige and reverence in the community. Marriage in the Bimoba society cements togetherness and plays the role of bringing two families or clans together in union. In respect of this, there are different forms of marriage arrangements including;
Marriage by betrothal: In the case of marriage by betrothal, the young woman had no right to make a choice. Instead, she was basically given out for marriage without knowing the man until she gets to her new home. There were possibilities where she gets married to either old or young man, depending on what that family had arranged. For families to maintain and sustain a long-term relationship between and among them could give out their daughter for marriage to seal this friendship. In this instance, the girl child was always perceived as a subject of marriage before she was even born.
Marriage by exchange: For exchange, this was kind of a contract arrangement between families. After a family marries a young girl, they get a replacement for her to the other family (give your sister and take someone else’s sister to marry). My mum got married through this form. She narrated that “after my dad exchanged me for another woman, two to three years down the line, that woman left him. Then he came and brought me back home hoping and looking forward to sending me somewhere again”. I was sad to hear this narration. So, I asked; what of if you had fallen in love with that man, do you still have to leave? She replied, “even if one had decided to fall in love with this man after the contract ends, you would have to end the love and marriage too. But if the contract works then your marriage works too”. I feel happy that such is no more in practice nowadays.
Widow inheritance: widowhood inheritance was a particular case of marriage in which after a woman loses her husband remarries in the same family. Widows were made to accept to marry the husband’s brother, and this, in essence, was meant to get her someone who will continue to support and take good care of her. On the other hand, an unwilling brother of the deceased may be forced or compelled to agree to marry this widow. Such practices are gradually fading away.
Marriage by free will: free will marriage permits the parties to search for each other and study each other through courtship and other dating efforts by the guy and the lady. Through this process, they both get their immediate families informed and then start all the necessary plans.
Both betrothal and exchange form of marriages are no longer in practice any more. However, it was one of the significant causes of girl child school dropouts as revealed in studies by Elijah Konbian Fant in 2008. Most women from such a regime are uneducated, and my mum is a victim of exchange marriage. Notwithstanding this, families were able to maintain respect as this was the aim. As revealed by Meij et al. in 2007, the most typical form of marriage ritual was termed as “pochianu” which has gradually faded away. This has been replaced with the church blessing (white wedding)
Presently, marriage is based on free will as described above. Before the church (white) wedding, traditional marriage usually happens first. With a white wedding, most people think it is a decision based on your financial capability. For marriage (Union between people and their families) to happen the groom, his family, friends and relatives prepare the items which were listed by the bride’s families as the traditional. It is important to note that Bimobas do not have fixed bride price set aside as this may be the case for other ethnic groups. It varies from place to place and also by ethnic groups. Taking my clan as a case study, I witnessed free will traditional marriage events a couple of times. I see this form of marriage (customary/standard) much simpler and more manageable.
After the preparation from the groom’s side, a day is set aside, and a delegation from the groom visits the bride’s family. Items such as a gallon of Pito, a bowl of cola nut, one sized moulded tobacco and a bottle of alcohol were/are usually presented traditionally. These items will be used by the bride’s family as a sign or symbol to facilitate the validation and authenticity of the marriage. Aside from what is/was traditionally expected, a new trend of appreciating the lady’s parents and the larger clan has set in to stay. This time around, additional items are purchased like clothes, sandals, accessories, bags, drinks of all kinds, and physical cash for different individuals and groups in the lady’s clan.
When that special day comes, the delegation gets to the bride community, and it usually takes place in the house of the most elderly person in the community. Everyone gathers to witness and support both of them. When the groom finally arrives, the other family will already be seated waiting to welcome them and begin the process. While the men sit outside, the women sit inside with the bride in between the elderly women.
Upon arrival, greetings are exchanged outside, then a woman fetches water in a traditional calabash and welcomes them. This water signifies welcome and acceptance as I am told. However, the groom family will have to show appreciation by giving out a token to this woman. The greetings are later extended to the women in the compound. When this is done, the woman is called by the elders, to verify, confirm and give them permission to accept the items. This is the part I am incredibly overwhelmed about in the whole process. The entire process ends when the bride’s family/clan finally accept the items and hand over the bride to the groom.
Through this free will, all the necessary traditional processes are performed to officially recognized these two people as husband and wife by the families and the entire clan. But due to the emergence of religion, this customary marriage is not regarded as the final stage by most people. Instead, unless it is blessed in the church (white wedding, perceived to be way expensive).
As a writer, I am aiming to open up a discussion. What is the standard or the traditionally established form of Bimoba marriage celebration? What kind of items are presented among your clan in the Bimoba setting? How was the process like for you if you are married? How much is one expected to spend to marry traditionally (approximation)? Is it possible to find ways to incorporate our traditional marriage process into the church wedding to reduce cost? Or can we blend the two together to save resources? All your thoughts would be well appreciated. Comment, like and share with your friend to get engaged.