Marriage in African Traditional Society

Keywords: african matrimony traditions, african relationship customs

Marriage is an important step in the life of each human on earth. Different civilizations have different rituals and beliefs about relationship. Love, economic status, religious values, and social approval are only a few reasons individuals marry across differing ethnicities.

To understand various form of marriages among the list of Kenyan societies and specifically the Akamba, we shall look at span the systems of relationships that been around.

Kenyan culture is very diverse and filled with tradition predicated on social norms that contain been around for generations. Social life is patterned around a solid clan and long family ties. This takes on a essential role in the relationship process. Kenyans try to maximize rewards and lessen costs. This is done by contrasting what one provides up compared to what they get in marriage. A husband may receive sociable status, sexual development, increased labor, and the data that his blood-line will continue, while giving up some kind of economic settlement to the category of the wife. The partner may receive resources, adult status as a better half, and protection in substitution for her labor and behavior to her man.

Marriage is an established union of a guy and a female as couple, a union that is intended to carry on their joint lives. Mutisya(2004) cites an instance of Rex vs Amkeyo, the then Key Justice, Sir Robert Hamilton, that explained

"For me, the use of the word 'matrimony' to spell it out the relationship moved into into by an African local with a woman of his tribe according to tribal custom is a misnomer that has led in the past to a significant dilemma of ideas the factor of your so-called matrimony by local custom differs so materially from the normal accepted idea of what constitutes a civilized form of relationship that it's difficult to compare both. "

However, in the African brain, it is recognized as a serious affair and one which demands high commitment. You will discover no half-measures in Akamba relationships. A guy who engages in dubious marital interactions is a mutuany'a, a vagabond despised by everyone in the community. Likewise, a female with out a proper husband is known as a mukoma nthi, one who sleeps on the floor, a person of no resolved abode.

Among the Akamba, a virgin bride brought shame to her family; her virginity was a sign of ill preparation before relationship, therefore young women were ritually deflowered by elder men from whom they received intimate teachings. Within the same vein, pre-marital love-making was permitted for both children to prepare them adequately because of their conjugal responsibilities in marriage. On the list of Akamba, marriage had the specific purpose of perpetuating one's lineage and in the process, bestowing social position on the man and his partner.

When a son and girl came to a secret agreement that they were in love and wished to marry, upon agreement, the young man's daddy would tackle the girl's parents on the matter. This was followed by the first signal of closing an in-law relationship 'uthoni' with two goats 'mbui sya ntheo'. The young suitor then ready the best ale 'uki', which was taken to the girl's daddy, accompanied by a negotiation on the bride-wealth.

The Akamba committed woman was pretty much the top of the family in the long run, since the partner got little control over her in the day to day management. If such a flexibility to manage the house was absent, the spouse had the threat of his better half becoming exasperated and working away. At all costs, the husband were required to avoid such situations of the wife running back to her parents, because he'd definitely not restore the dowry he provided to her parents, which could only happen if his former wife re-married. In the case of re-marriage, the new husband was obliged to refund the whole dowry paid to the former husband. In the final analysis what this technique did was to reduce exceedingly the amount of divorce cases.

The Akamba men were socialized to worship physical electric power - fighting, cattle raiding, and so on. The women taken care of a meticulously guarded culture of oppression where men were excluded from all intellectual activities. The men's only tasks were to raid cattle and guard the community. When they were not doing that, they were permitted to spend their time consuming beverage or socializing.

They were excluded from all creative activities where thought and tact would have been necessary. In deed, even in worshiping Mulungu - the Akamba God, the men were excluded. The women got their own well-organized religion called Kathambi. Their goddess, Kathambi, is the goddess of rainwater and fertility. The women associated rainfall and fertility with womanhood. And since men don't give delivery or menstruate, they were deemed not capable of interacting with Mulungu. The congregation of Kathambi worshiping women was called Ngolano and the congregation was led by female priestesses (who got halted menstruating and having a baby) in shrines called mathembo, made up of dense forests or huge trees.

Ghost Wives (Mulewa)

"Mulewa Muthiani goes about her business just like any other widowed girl in her community in Ukambani. But there exists one difference between her and "normal" widows - Mulewa never fulfilled her husband. In fact, she was married to him after he passed away, about 30 years ago.

Mulewa is what's described in Ukambani as a ghost wife. Even though she never establish eyes on Muthiani, her hubby, she recognizes for a fact that he once resided, and even if now long dead, he continues to live as a soul. This she knows because when she was being married, her mom in-law, Muthoni - who died in 1992 - told her that she was being married to endure children for Muthoni's kid, Muthiani, who passed on in early years as a child. Yes, she has children - five in simple fact - who had been fathered by different men and who tolerate her useless husband's name. " Stanely Kimanga.

It was considered highly important for each Akamba man to be wedded since it was his better half and children that could promise keeping his storage area beyond his fatality. If an Akamba man passed away before marriage, the father arranged to obtain a wife (Mulewa) for the inactive son. Such a woman was wedded to the name of the "useless unmarried man" and bore him children, usually by his sibling (cf. Middleton, p. 90).

In 1967 C. W. Hobley wrote in "Bantu Beliefs and Magic"

There is a wondering custom in Ukambani. . . If a unmarried man is killed away from his community, his Imu or spirit will gain there and talk with the individuals through the medium of an old female in a dance and say: "I am so-and- so speaking, and I want a wife. " The youth's dad will then make arrangements to buy a woman from another village and bring her to his, and she'll be mentioned as the better half of the deceased, talking about him by name. . . "

Among the Akamba, a woman could be hitched to a man who was simply long dead and such a woman was called 'Mulewa' - 'ghost better half. " Athough the 'ghost partner' never fulfilled her 'hubby', she knew he once lived and continued to live a life as a spirit. Mulewa was therefore likely to bear children on her behalf dead spouse by sleeping with other men.

The 'ghost better half' social practice also catered for male children who died in infancy. The bereaved mother counted the years before dead baby could have reached marriageable time, then she would find him a bride-to-be.

Before a woman was identified to be a 'ghost better half', there had to be data that she had already produced a boy. The continuation of the lifeless man's lineage which of his dad was of best importance. Regardless of whether daughters continued to be at home and produced children, they were not regarded as continuing the lineage of these maternal grandfather because kinship in the Akamba community was patrilineal and the children of daughters wouldn't normally belong to the same clan as their grandfather.

A ghost wife was accorded the privileges of a standard wife and her right of inheritance was safeguarded and she received what her lifeless husband could have received from his parents.

Woman-to-Woman Matrimony (Iweto)

The practice of women marrying women is relatively common using societies in Western world Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, and the Sudan. Yet, besides a total lack of conversation in the favorite media, what is typically called woman-woman matrimony is the subject of a very small body of academic literature.

Cross-culturally, women take wives under three circumstances, all of which increase the status of the female man: 1) barren women and widows take wives to obtain protection under the law over children produced; 2) rich women build up wives to gain prestige and riches in the same way men do through polygyny; and 3) in some societies where women have the to have a daughter-in-law, women without sons can exercise their to a daughter-in-law by marrying a woman and offering her to a non-existent boy.

In each one of these situations, African women are able to manipulate the prevailing system through woman-to-woman marriage in order to achieve higher public and economic position.

Woman-to-woman marriage can also be beneficial to individuals other than the female husband. Woman-to-woman matrimony involves the next people: 1) the feminine hubby herself; 2) if the female husband is already married, her own man (the feminine husband's man); 3) the girl who is hitched by the feminine man - the partner; and 4) the lover(s) of the better half who may pops her children. To secure a full knowledge of the topic, it's important to look at the motivations not only of the wife, but also those of the wife's lover(s) and the man (if any) of the female husband.

The Akamba utilized woman-to-woman marriage (Gynegamy) known as 'Iweto' All ceremonial areas of this marriage were seen, bride-wealth was paid to the girl's father, and all guidelines of divorce applicable in the Akamba community were adhered to. This marriage included one female marrying an other woman, thus supposing control over her and her offspring.

The Akamba female husbands resorted to the form of marriage to help expand their social and financial positions in world. Barren women and widows required wives to obtain rights over children produced. Wealthy Akamba women gathered wives to get prestige and prosperity just as men do through polygamy. The Akamba women who experienced no sons exercised their right to a daughter-in-law by marrying a woman and offering her to a non-existent son.

The Akamba allowed a female who had no sons to 'marry' an other woman. This was usually after widowhood, but could also be through the husband's life-time. The 'bride' worked well for and looked after the elderly woman she possessed 'committed' but was absolve to choose male associates as she thrilled, since the goal on her behalf union with the elderly woman was to have sons. Any children blessed belonged to the family group, and the sons would inherit the house.

Among the Akamba it was and still is the wife's obligation to provide food for the family from the family cultivated land. The better half could ask for divorce if the plot of land was too small and the spouse refused to work out a larger piece of land (cf. Penwill, pp. 15-18).

Christian view of both types of Marriages

In traditional thinking, ancestors are an essential hyperlink in a hierarchical chain of powers stretching out of this world to the spirit world. Insofar as African traditional religion can be described by specific "religious" activities, the cult of the ancestors is its most common and essential activity.

In order to understand the value of ancestors one must realize that in the African view, death is not considered to end human connections. Alternatively, those who pass away enter the heart world where they are unseen.

Deceased ancestors are vital to the traditional African social composition. In a culture where tribe, clan and family are very important, ancestors will be the most respected family. To be take off from human relationships with one's ancestors is to stop to be always a whole person. In addition, the ancestors sanction society's traditions, norms and ethics. Without them, Africans are still left without moral recommendations or drive, and society is powerless to enforce ethics.

However, the bible is clear on when should a union between a female and a man end, in case there is the ghost marriages. A better half is bound as long as her man lives; but if her husband is dead, she actually is free to be committed to whom she needs, only in god, the father. ( 1st Corithians 7:39).

This outlaws the bond in matrimony between your useless and the alive. In addition, it cautions against tokenism where one worships a inactive person. It is through Christ that that have died will surge again.

However, female to woman relationships of Ukambbani are not same with lesbianism. It was a destination to care for the other person and engaged no or little intimate intimacy.

Christian teachings prohibit marriage and intimate activities between same genders but encourage visitors to take proper care of every other. ( 1st John 3:16). It had been love that guided these romantic relationships.

References Cited

Cadigan, R. Jean (1998), Woman-to-woman marriage: techniques and benefits in Sub-Saharan Africa. Comparative Perspectives on Black color Family Life. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol 1

Dundas, C. (1913), Background of Kitui, Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol 43 pp480-549.

Kimanga, S. (6 Oct 2004), The ghost wives of Ukambani, All Africa News, http://allafrica. com/stories/200410060072. html, Utilized 18th July 2010

Lindblom, G. , (1969. ) The Akamba in Uk East Africa, 2nd Model, NY: Negro School Press.

Middleton, J. (1953), The Central Tribes of the North-Eastern Bantu, London: International African Institute.

New International Version, Holy Bible

Penwill, D. J. , (1951), Kamba Customary Law, London: Macmillan and Company.

Roy M, M. (2004), Akamba Matrimony Customs. Nairobi: Roma Web publishers Limited.

Mueni, E. (2010) Personal interview (0726 43-0331)

Terry, M. (2010) Personal Interview (0721- 738524)

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