Marriage and My tradition: Ramblings of an Oron Bride-to-be
The day was gradually starting; there was a mixture of frisson and an instant streaming of sunlight that startled her into consciousness. Careful not to alert her mother who was still busy pulling back the drapery and humming the tune "This is my day of joy" that she had awoken, Oyenizai sat up and looked around the room which in about 4 hours wouldn't be her’s anymore, just like her last name.
Vivid images of her father's austerity filled her head as she remembered the fit he had gotten into because Etim had ignorantly come to the marriage introduction with a couple of friends rather than relatives. He had called it a taboo, she had never seen Etim so terrified yet she found it amusing. Eventually, Father granted Etim's incessant requests to be given another chance but not without personally giving him hand written guidelines on how to go about the marriage rites. Etim had lamented (of course, only to her) about having to bring his aged parents on all the visitations before father had agreed on the traditional wedding date nor could his borrowed western mind comprehend why it was mandatory to buy a he-goat for her first brother as was stipulated on the list of items he was to provide. But tradition as they say is tradition, he had no other option than to meet all the requirements and today they would be traditionally married.
Your coffee won't stay hot forever..., aunt Obi quipped as she walked right into to room to get a glimpse of the bride-to-be. Oyenizai had been completely unaware of the tray and attires that lay quietly beside the bed and gazed at her. The next three hours went by in obscurity, She could not understand why her hair had to be plaited into long heavy braids before being matted then designed with gold combs or why she had been subjected to a rather long bath while she was soaped and scrubbed with traditional soaps and salts that made her body glow only to be covered in red powder and have her face designed in patterns with native chalk like a character in an epic Nigerian movie set.
She let out a long laugh when she was allowed to peep at the mirror as she imagined the horror on Etim's face when he sees her, his naturally very light skinned wife-to-be covered in what would seem to him as red sand and white paint. But when she donned her complete attire and jewellery, she couldn't deny her true heritage, a typical Oron daughter about to be given out in marriage. She was a spectacle to behold.
Until that moment, Oyenizai had no inclination to the custom that demanded the younger sister of the bride to dance scantily dressed round the village square (or in her case, her fathers' compound) in a specific rhythm before the bride could be presented; much to Ekammar, her younger sister's bewilderment. Oyenizai was not left out as she would be carried out sitting on the shoulders of a man while he proved his machismo by daringly throwing her up and down his shoulders round the compound until he 'deposits' her in front of her in-laws. Still perplexed, her mother further informed her of the marriage calabash which she must place on her head while being carried, stating that in the event of a fall that resulted to the calabash breaking, the marriage would not hold as that signified ill-luck. The worried look suddenly changed to fear as all the older women burst out laughing uncontrollably until her aunty chipped in that there had never been a recorded case of a broken calabash in the history of Oron. The roar of approaching drums could he heard from a distance and this was a signal that Etim had arrived and her friends scrambled to get ready to be disguised as her before her grand entry.
The last drill was short, her father had given her a 5minute brief on what the ceremony would entail: she was to be carried to her in-law's table to be verified as the real bride, after which her and Etim would answer a variety of questions, if satisfactory, the family orator would give Etim a number of comical tasks to complete to show strength and his capability of taking care of her and then finally proceed with the rites to join them as man and wife.
A collective sound of disapproval had Oyenizai and the women folk rushing to the window, Etim had unveiled Amaka; Oyenizai's best friend and had rejected her as his bride. This continued with another five of her friends and with each unveiling and rejection, Etim was made to pay outrageous 'transportation fares' to fetch his bride, much to his amusement. The time was near as Ekammar stepped out and the crowd cheered as she gave the dance that signified the bride's entry. Torn between nausea and nervousness, Oyenizai receded to her bed and looked around yet again, finally interlocking her fingers along with a deep breath, she stepped out when she heard her name. It was time; a new phase of her life, a life she had chosen with Etim, one they both dreamt of and a smile crept back in place of the fear as she collected her calabash. All the worry washed away in that moment of euphoria as she was gracefully carried into the sun, this was indeed not only her day of joy it was her wedding story...
*Citation and corrections are welcome for this article as the writer is only familiar with marriages within the Oron LGA of Akwa-Ibom state. Traditional rites observed in other parts of the state may have been excluded due to Ignorance
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