The Concept Of Igbo Traditional Marriage

 

Marriage can be defined as an approved relationship between a man and a woman as husband and wife.

Marriage in African contest is a union of dignity and pride to both men and women.

For the Western world, marriage is companionship and sharing of love but for an Igbo people, marriage is purely to raise offspring to continue the family lineage.

Igbo people are one of the ethnic groups in Nigeria in West Africa. They are located in the south East Zone of the country. They are well respected and industrious ethnic group who always abide by their culture.

In the olden days, our forefathers married so many wives to have a large family that would help in their farms and also command respect from people and to qualify him for chieftaincy title.

Marriage is a sacred order and it is not done anyhow.

In Igbo land, marriage is a contract between two families. It is unacceptable when a man fails to perform the necessary marriage rites or when a woman elopes with a man and start having children for him.

Firstly, when a man is up to the age of marriage, he will inform the father, who will carefully select a nice behaved lady from a good home.

The lady in question will be the type that is hard-working, farm work, nice cook, respect the husband, father-in-law, mother-in-law and neighbours.

After necessary inquiries, the groom’s father will take a few of his kinsmen for the first visit to the girl’s parents, requesting her hand in marriage. On their first visit, they will alert the girl’s father that they saw a ripe fruit at the back of his house, and they would like to pluck it. This is a tradition.

On their second visit after performing the rites required, the girl will escort her husband home with an empty palm wine calabash.

During this visit, she is expected to stay with the mother-in-law, sleeping in her room or hut and not in the husband’s room. In the morning, she is expected to wake up very early, sweep the compound, do the house chores expected of a new bride. The family will be monitoring or accessing everything she does, even the way she talks.

The first visit lasts for four market days and the husband with his kinsmen will take her back with some kegs of palm wine. If the girl agrees to go with them for the next visit that will last for eight market days, it shows she has accepted to marry the man.

All these visits to the bride’s home will never be on one particular market day called “Eke Market Day”.

It is a taboo in Igbo land and culture to talk of marriage rites on Eke market day. It is unacceptable, it is tradition.

In the first, second, and all the visits to the girl’s family, the man is expected to provide all the required items for each visit.

At this point, both families will negotiate for the bride price including requirements for the father, mother, Elders, youths and the entire village.

Some of the items include- kegs of palm wine, schnapps, goat, yam, snuff, coconut, kerosene, bags of salt, powder, soap, pomade, rolls of matches etc.

For the bride’s mother, the son-in-law will provide the following- wrapper, lace material, umbrella, handbag, wristwatch, big head tie, pair of shoe etc.

A day is fixed for the ceremony when the two families, friends and well-wishers will come together to celebrate the new couple. This is called traditional marriage or (Igba Nkwu) in Igbo land.

The man and the woman is pronounced husband and wife in front of everybody and this makes it an approved relationship.

Reviewing what is happening today, we can observe that this tradition has now being thrown into the mud by this computer age.

In this contemporary society, wives are not chosen by fathers; bachelors date and live with spinsters without even asking where the girl comes from. Worst still, some girls are ready to have up to four to five children for a man, who don’t even care to know her parents, where she comes from or even pay a dime on her head in the name of love.

Now, we can see that marriage has lost its value and the end result is single parenthood, incessant divorce, separations and the couple never respect each other.

As I said earlier, marriage is a sacred institution and people should keep the sacred hood by borrowing a leaf from the traditional point of view.

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